ICSF's statement at the 96th Session of the ILC, 12 June 2007

Two-thirds of the world`s fish production originates mainly from marine capture fisheries that employ over 30 million fishers on board four million fishing vessels. It is high time that a socially-disadvantaged section—which includes both men and women, often forced to carry on earning a livelihood under adverse working and living conditions—finally benefits from an ILO instrument that guarantees decent work.

The size of vessels and crew, the duration of fishing trips, and the area of fishing operations, vary across the world. Considering this diversity, it is commendable that the Committee on the Fishing Sector could propose for adoption, a Convention and a Recommendation on work in the fishing sector that cover fishers on board both small- and large-scale fishing vessels with rigour and flexibility. The proposed Convention provides a common framework to address issues related to minimum requirements for work on board fishing vessels, and living and working conditions, as well as the social security of fishers.

The marine fishing industry—in particular, the sub-sectors characterized by larger fishing vessels undertaking longer fishing trips—would benefit from the provisions of the proposed Convention after the adoption, ratification and development of national legislation toward its implementation. Developing countries can greatly benefit from the provisions of the Convention, not only in terms of their national fishing industries, but also as fishing-labour exporting nations. Implemented well, the Convention can put an end to the inhuman treatment of fishworkers, particularly of migrant fishers on board distant-water fishing vessels.

ICSF strongly urges the Conference to adopt the Convention. This time, the additional flexibility offered by the proposed Convention should ensure wider support, and enable its ratification on adoption even in countries with insufficiently developed infrastructure or institutions. ICSF hopes, however, that provisions for a 'progressive implementation approach' do not lead to an undue delay in extending the benefits of the Convention to all fishers who fall within its scope. ICSF requests governments to consider speedier ratification of this Convention on adoption, and also to consider extending its relevant provisions, where applicable, to shore-based fishers, especially women, in consultation with social partners. This would be consistent with the ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration in July 2006 on ‘Creating an environment at the national and international levels conducive to …decent work for all….’

ICSF believes that the proposed Work in Fishing Convention, 2007, can complement the legal instruments for sustainable and responsible fisheries, namely, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, by addressing the social dimension of sustainable development of fishers and fishing communities.

ICSF has been disseminating the content of, and mustering support for, the proposed fishing Convention since 2003, and it has, in this regard, organized several meetings in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe mainly for small-scale fishers, who, as a result, have evinced a greater interest in the proposed Convention. Once the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007, is adopted, ICSF looks forward to collaborating with the International Labour Office, governments, trade unions and NGOs, for its dissemination, ratification and implementation.

Last but not least, ICSF would also like to take this opportunity to urge ILO to look into the conditions of work in the burgeoning aquaculture industry that employs an estimated 10 million people, and to develop, if deemed necessary, an instrument to guarantee them decent work. Aquaculture today accounts for one-third of world fish production.  Over the past quinquennium, while marine capture fishery production has been stagnating, aquaculture fish production has been registering impressive growth. It would be only appropriate that such growth is not achieved at the cost of decent work.

ICSF's statement at the 96th Session of the ILC, 31 May 2007

1. The International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) recognizes the importance of providing decent work and labour standards in the fishing sector to all fishers in both commercial small- and large-scale fishing operations.

2. Consistent with the ILO goal of decent work for all, the benefits of the Convention should not be confined only to those who work on board fishing vessels, it should, to the extent practicable, also be extended to persons dependent on shore-based fishing operations, such as those dependent on beach seining, diving and gleaning shellfish, who are paid a wage or share of the catch, and who are part of an employer-employee relationship. The shore-based fishers should at least benefit from Part VI of the draft Convention that deals with occupational safety and health and accident prevention, and social security—areas of interest in the draft Convention to these fishers. In this context, it would be appropriate to bring shore-based fishers also within the ambit of "fisher" in Article 1 (e). There are thousands of women who are dependent on shore-based fishing operations world-wide, in particular, mainly in developing countries, and broadening the scope of the Convention also to benefit shore-based fishers would do a great service to these women, and would be consistent with Goal 3 viz, to promote gender equality and empower women, of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations General Assembly.

3. We would also like to inform the Committee that ICSF together with other NGOs and trade unions had organized a South Asian Workshop of Trade Unions on 11 February 2007 in Negombo, Sri Lanka, where the participants were of the unanimous view that the proposed Convention would be of immense benefit to the small- and large-scale fishing sector in South Asia. Further, the Statement of the Workshop on Asserting Rights and Defining Responsibilities: Perspectives from Small-scale Fishing Communities on Coastal and Fisheries Management in Asia, from 3 to 5 May 2007, Siem Reap, Cambodia, organized by ICSF and the Royal Government of Cambodia, highlighted the need to adopt the proposed Convention on Work in Fishing. We welcome the Convention and believe that the minor differences that remain can be successfully sorted out to lead to its adoption, which would be of benefit of all fishers of the world. We wish this Committee all success.

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