The ongoing privatisation of the world’s oceans is a matter of great concern, University of Rhode Island Associate Professor Dr Seth Macinko told the opening session of the General Assembly the World Forum of Fisher Peoples in Cape Town this morning.
Dr Macinko was addressing over 120 delegates from numerous countries during an Opening Ceremony that was a powerful mix of speeches, cultural items and a moving tribute to Father Thomas Kocherry, fisheries activist from India.
He told delegates and observers that powerful forces were speaking about privatisation as if it was the panacea for the challenges facing fisheries in the world.
“They make claims of social and environmental benefits. They talk about helping the poor. You have to take stock and understand the language they use, because when they talk about rights, it is not the same thing you have in mind,” he said.
He said that privatisation is predicated upon an embrace of trickle-down economics, which has not worked the world over.
“My advice to you is beware of these developments – of the strategically benign language and the attempts to co-opt the discourse of the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines which you fought for.”
A short DVD and an address by Andy Johnston of the Artisanal Fishers Association paid tribute to Indian activist Thomas Kocherry, a founder of the WFFP, who passed away earlier this year.
Over the next four days, the delegates will discuss critical issues facing tens of millions of small-scale fishers around the world. These include: Ocean Grabbing, the process whereby elites take control of resources at the expense of poor communities; and the International Guidelines for small-scale fisheries, which offers some hope for the sector.
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr Senzeni Zokwana, will attend the closing session of the conference, on Thursday, September 4, which is open to the media.
About Dr Seth Macinko
Dr Seth Macinko teaches courses in fisheries law and management in the Department of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island (USA) where he is an associate professor. He has served on the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (which manages the fisheries off Alaska) since 1996. He has published widely on proposals to introduce so-called property rights into fisheries and on the impacts of contemporary management trends on fishing communities. He earned his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley.
Before becoming an academic, Macinko used to fish commercially in Alaska, and remembers when he began hearing about individual quota programs in 1980. Since then, interest has built worldwide, and now, he says, the individual transferable quota system is the reigning orthodoxy in fisheries management. “The logic is that ownership creates stewardship,” he underlines but the proponents of these privatisation schemes are “confusing management with ownership. Under any ownership regime you still have to manage wisely.”0