Fisherfolk call for peace zones in sea, on-arrival visas

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Navies arresting fishermen for violating maritime boundaries is not a concern for only the nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, but a global issue that most neighbouring countries with sea have been facing at such an alarming level that the fisherfolk around the world have demanded declaring 50 nautical miles (NM) as peace zone where fishermen from neighbouring countries could fish freely.
Addressing the second of four sessions of World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP)’s 5th General Assembly, fisherfolk from 13 countries demanded the nations around the world to exempt fisherfolk from the requirement of acquiring visas. “Each country along the sea must consider declaring at least 50NM as peace zone so the fishermen from neighbouring countries can easily fish without getting arrested by the navies or other law enforcement agencies,” Indian fisherfolk leader Thomas Kocherry demanded.
He said that every country should provide visas to the fisherfolk at the airport or on arrival. “We also want land and aquatic reforms in all countries. We have to propose that water and land are our rights,” he added. Around 31 fisherfolk delegations, including seven fisherwomen, from India, Canada, Sri Lanka, France, South Africa, Thailand, Pakistan, Finland, Maldives, Indonesia, Philippines, Spain and Senegal are attending the WFFP’s general assembly.
Small group discussions were also held, and were facilitated by South Africa’s Naseegh Jaffer Mogamat with Sri Lanka’s Herman Kumara and Canada’s Sherry Pictou. Senegal’s Dao Gaye informed the participants of the meeting that the people in his country have been facing a lot of challenges due to various reasons. He said that they are negotiating with the government to protect their resources because neighbouring countries are destroying their fishing zones, especially by Chinese trawlers.
“For only a few months we can see fish in our own markets. Fishing organisations are demanding to ban foreign vessels since Taiwanese, Russian and Ukrainian ships are robbing fish from us,” he added. South African representative said that their government does not want to even recognise small fishermen, whereas wealthy businessmen, doctors and others could get a right to fish.
Canadian delegates were of the view that industries are a threat to fish due to dumping chemicals in the sea. Sri Lankan delegates said that their government was developing tourism since many islands were privatised for tourism and aquaculture after tsunami.
Kumara said, “We struggled against the tourism project because it is one of the major problems for the fisherfolk. As a result of our struggle, the government accepted our demands.”
He said that Indians bottom trawl, and sought a ban on using destructive nets. “Sri Lankan fishermen are discussing this with Tamil Nadu’s fishermen. We held a dialogue between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen and reached consensus, but the Sri Lankan government did not accept the agreement,” he added.