Custodians of the sea demand a ‘seat at the table’ in Lisbon conference
Lisbon, Jul 1 (EFE).- A group of fishers gathered Friday in Lisbon, where a United Nations Conference on Oceans is currently being held, to demand a greater say in the protection of the seas, on which their lives depend.
“I have been a shellfish diver and in artisanal fishing for more than 30 years. Therefore, I know, I don’t need a study to tell me what is happening on the seabed because I spend every day walking on it,” Daniel Caniullan, spokesman for indigenous communities in Chilean Patagonia, who is participating in the UN conference, tells Efe.
Caniullan is just one of the half a billion people around the world who live off small-scale fishing and who are struggling due to the ocean crisis.
Together with a group of “custodians of the sea” he forms part of ‘A seat at the table’, a global campaign that demands local communities get a bigger role in marine protection.
The group advocates joint management of coastal areas, the participation of women in fishing, the protection of artisanal techniques and encourages the participation of young people.
“Politicians and private sectors do not listen to the voices of those who are living the threats to ecosystems,” Caniullan says, adding that change has to happen on a local community level before rising to the top.
“Artisanal fishing is the heart of our life,” says Micheline Somplehi Dion, president of the Union of Cooperative Societies of Women in Fishing of Côte d’Ivoire.
“If there is no fish, there is no work,” she continues, explaining that fish are moving further and further away from the coast, threatening the survival of communities whose livelihoods depend on the sea.
While the Lisbon Declaration says it recognizes the “important role of indigenous, traditional and local knowledge, innovation and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities,” activists say it is not enough.
“We want policymakers to talk with us, not for us,” Suzanne Njeri, from Kenya, vice-president of the African Women Fish Processors and Traders Network, says. EFE