Celebrating World Fisheries Day
World Fisheries Day will be Celebrated on November 21, 2015
Here we are—a special day to celebrate fisheries and fishermen on November 21. As each year passes, we increase our appreciation and reasons for celebrating this occurrence. Each year brings us news—good or bad—about the fisheries in the vast oceans. This occasion offers us a time to celebrate and reflect on our involvement and responsibility with the fish resources and with the people that bring us the bounty of the oceans.
Origins of World Fisheries Day
The origin of World Fisheries Day occurred on the same day that an international fishermen’s organization was formed in New Dehli, India. The World Fisheries Forum (WFF) was established on November 21, 1997. On that day, fishing representatives from 18 countries signed a declaration advocating for a global mandate of sustainable fishing practices and policies. The creation of WFF was founded on the common principles of sustaining the fishing communities, sustaining the fisheries, social justice, and preserving the cultural history of fish harvesters and fish workers.
The two representatives from the United States were Angela Sanfilippo and myself. Angela is the executive director of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives located in Gloucester, MA. Also in attendance was Chandrika Sharma. Chandrika attended this historic event as a representative of the International Collective in Support of Fish Workers located in Chennai, India. Unfortunately, she was a passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 which crashed on March 8, 2014.
A New Imperative
Pope Francis has reinforced the importance of World Fisheries Day with his encyclical Laudato Si. He calls attention to the world’s oceans, identifying them as “our common home.” He cites the increasing amount of plastic waste, the pollution from runoff of land based activities creating ‘dead zones’ where marine life cannot exist. He writes: ”Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.”
He also identifies bycatch—the incidental catch of non-target species—and destructive fishing practices as threats to the productivity of the oceans. He writes: “Marine life in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, which feeds a great part of the world’s population, is affected by uncontrolled fishing, leading to a drastic depletion of certain species. Selective forms of fishing which discard much of what they collect continue unabated. Particularly threatened are marine organisms which we tend to overlook, like some forms of plankton; they represent a significant element in the ocean food chain, and species used for our food ultimately depend on them.”
The Vatican has issued an announcement for World Fisheries Day 2015. Cardinal Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, wrote the announcement and draws attention to the core principles of World Fisheries Day.
A Time to Contemplate
Unfortunately, as I mentioned, we do have bad news. This year we have seen and heard about the inhumane treatment of fishermen aboard fishing vessels. This topic has captured all of us. Many countries and organizations have aggressively addressed this sad documentary of abuse. The Apostleship of the Sea-USA has issued a proclamation denouncing this activity; the Vatican has issued a statement asking seafood companies and consumers to be more conscious not only of the quality of the seafood that they are buying but also of the labor conditions of those in the fishing industry. Governments have taken on aggressive actions to eliminate these inhumane working conditions. Seafood companies are advocating for social justice and refusing to sell products from fishing vessels that are abusing their crew.
A Time to Remember
On September 7, 2015 we were saddened to lose a strong advocate for fishermen and the oceans. Zeke Grader was the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations (PCFFA) and the Institute of Fisheries Resources (IFR). Zeke gave human values to fish, to fishery habitat, to ecosystems, to oceans. He taught us to use the centuries-old culture of the coastal communities as the cornerstone of fishery policies for sustaining commercial fishing. His vison was imbedded in his life long quest for teaching others the ecological, social and economic importance of sustaining domestic fisheries. He did this by his commitment and dedication to fishing families. He spent endless hours with fishermen, policy makers and NGO’s.
A Time to Act
With each World Fisheries Day, we have more insight into fishing, fishermen and their families, coastal communities, the conditions of the oceans and the status of the fish stocks. We become closer to sources of food, professions, and principles. We understand why sustainable fishing is a food security issue as well as an environmental issue.
In a sense, World Fisheries Day is our way of thinking globally, celebrating the same day, and acting locally as we reach out to our communities through local events. As fishermen we send a message to our communities, to our nations and to the world that we’re here, we’re proud and why we matter.
An international organization of fishermen—WFF—organized in New Dehli on November 21, 1997 to show unity, pride and solidarity. On that day, we started World Fisheries Day and we continue that celebration. All of us have more reasons to celebrate and be thankful for the goodness that the Oceans give us.
Institute for Fisheries Resources
November 21, 2015