Fishers face difficulties

While the ratification of the Fishing Convention 188 is a long way off, fishers continue to face severe difficulties.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Peter Snow from ICMA member the Seafarers Welfare Board of New Zealand, represented ICMA at a meeting on the welfare of fishers held in Bali on October 4th 2012.  The meeting was initiated by ICMA partners the ICSW and the ITF Seafarers Trust.  The meeting was piggy-backed on the South East Asia Regional Welfare Committee Meeting.

In his report to the Secretariat, Snow wrote:

In most [of the] countries [represented at the meeting], fishing was very much a family business rather than corporate commercial fishing.  Being so, there was intense resistance to change [= welfare interventions] as the businesses felt that they might lose their livelihood.

The provision of welfare services did not feature very much, and most delegates confirmed that they do not extend welfare facilities in their ports to fishermen.  Even the Regional ICSW welfare project did not really cover fishermen.  There were no specific drop-in centres provided anywhere in the region specifically for fishermen.

Generally [there were] poor living conditions on board fishing vessels with very little access for crew to communications facilities.

Desired outcomes were:

  • For Fishing Boat owners:  the provision of fair wages, proper living conditions on board the vessels,  no withholding of passports, nutritious food, training and workplace safety, access to medical supplies and services, seaworthiness of the vessels themselves, and P&I/insurance cover for all.
  • For Port Authorities, space for drop-in centres, access to health facilities ashore, local support utilities, safety and security, general awareness training, port state control and rest/recreation areas with access to canteens (although this might be a duplication of drop-in centres).

[The] presenter forecast that the Convention would be ratified within three years, but most delegates were sceptical that this would be achieved.  Most delegates felt that their countries did not even have a list of “the things that have to be done” in the ratification process, and hence felt that ratification was a long way off.

The rest of the meeting was devoted to a consideration of the issues that we all faced:

  • Illegal fishing
  • Abandonment of both fishing vessels and their crews
  • Poverty amongst fishermen, for example not keeping up with inflation and low wages
  • Lack of on-board and shore-based accessible welfare facilities.  This is more apparent where fishing ports are remote from cargo and cruise ship port facilities.
  • Family-owned small enterprises which will ignore regulation
  • Lack of telecommunications facilities for crew when at sea
  • Passports being withheld by fishing vessel skippers
  • Tracing real ownership of some fishing vessels
  • Crew being recruited as seafarers rather than as fishers
  • Working hours regulations
  • Lack of written and signed contracts
  • Lack of trade training, and its consequences in safety issues on board
  • Piracy threats
  • Human trafficking
  • Lack of insurance covering fishers

Peter B Snow
Honorary Treasurer
Seafarers Welfare Board for New Zealand Incorporated, a member of ICMA
5 November 2012