‘Ocean-grabbing’ as serious a threat as ‘land-grabbing’ – UN food expert
Special Rapporteur release, 30 October 2012

NEW YORK, USA: ‘Ocean-grabbing’ – in the shape of shady access agreements that harm small-scale fishers, unreported catch, incursions into protected waters, and the diversion of resources away from local populations – can be as serious a threat as ‘land-grabbing,’ UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter said as he unveiled his new report on fisheries and the right to food. The UN expert called on governments to rethink the models of fisheries that they support, highlighting that small-scale fishers actually catch more fish per gallon of fuel than industrial fleets, and discard fewer fish. “Industrial fishing in far-flung waters may seem like the economic option, but only because fleets are able to pocket major subsidies while externalizing the costs of over-fishing and resource degradation. Future generations will pay the price when the oceans run dry,” he said. The key challenge, he indicated, is to ensure coexistence between industrial fishing and the rights of small-scale fishers and coastal communities – for whom even occasional fishing can constitute an essential safety net in times of crisis. In the report, he makes a number of recommendations: create exclusive artisanal fishing zones for small-scale fishers and clamp down on incursions by industrial fleets; support small-scale fishers’ cooperatives and help them rise up the value chain; put co-management schemes in place to manage fishing resources locally; refrain from undertaking large-scale development projects, e.g. sand extraction, that adversely affect the livelihoods of small-scale fishers; and make fisheries and small-scale fishers an integral part of national right to food strategies. The independent expert drew attention to positive examples, such as the decision to grant community-based user rights to small-scale fishers on the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia (Tonle Sap, Cambodia), and the decision to ban industrial tuna fishing in favor of local ‘pole and line’ fishers in the Maldives. Read the release … Download the report [pdf] …