The implementation of the Managed Access Programme in the Caribbean country of Belize is said to bring about positive change for Small-Scale Fishers in the most poorest and marginalised fishing communities.
But the programme is based on the Rights Based Approach, an approach that is centred around and promotes the use of ‘private property’ as a fundamental basis for user rights in fisheries.
In fisheries governance this is also referred to as Rights Based Fishing, ITQs, Wealth Based Fishing or Catch Shares by various different players and it promotes the use of “property/individual rights” (World Forum of Fisher Peoples, 2015).
The Managed Access programme uses a method called FishForever a global initiative that “aims to realise the potential of a comprehensive, locally led conservation opportunity, where people can simultaneously strengthen local economies, improve food security and protect nature”. According to their website, FishForever is a solution to empower the world’s poorest coastal communities to not just change the way they fish today, but to fish forever. It is promoted by one of the most notorious groups pushing for private property rights; the US based Environmental Defence Fund.
But with the use of a method that promotes Rights Based Fishing instead of a Human Rights based methods, is such a programme really a solution to food insecurity, social injustice and poverty alleviation for Small-Scale Fishers?
According to the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) there is an irony in this almost fundamentalist belief in private property.
“While the aim of this approach is to eliminate hunger and reduce rural poverty, the World Bank – as one of the most powerful players in fisheries governance globally – admitted that the private property system is good for some and bad for many” (WFFP, 2015). This basically means that only a minority of fishers are successful in obtaining access rights under such a system.
The approach also draws attention to the range of factors beyond resource access that can undermine the health and welfare of natural resource-dependent communities.
If the very system that is promoted for small-scale fisheries government is bad for many, how then can it contribute to eliminating hunger and reducing poverty?
In most developing fisheries countries, where there are wider societal inequities and a shortage of mechanisms for effective representation and accountability, making individual or communal fishing rights more exclusionary runs the risk of exacerbating existing inequalities and fostering further violations in rights (Ratner and Baran, 2008).
The incorporation of human rights standards into fisheries governance is so far largely focused on access rights for small-scale fishers as a part of their right to livelihood, yet focusing on fishing rights alone is insufficient (Ratner et al., 2014)
The World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) has in numerous times canvassed for fisheries governance that is based on the Human Rights Based Approach.
In its application to natural resource management, a human rights-based framework draws attention to the institutions and power structures that determine resource allocation and access, as essential contributions to livelihoods and well-being, sometimes framed as environmental entitlements (Leach et al., 1999).
The underpinning principles of such an approach include equality, indigenous people’s rights, food sovereignty, gender equity, poverty alleviation for all, customary and traditional rights, traditional low-impact fishing, and participation in governance (World Forum of Fisher People, 2015).
It is an inclusive process for the development of a just policy/system that builds on the principles of agroecology and food sovereignty (World Forum of Fisher People, 2015).
WFFP has this year released the Blue Carbon report to expose and document why the Rights Based Approach is wrong and presents alternatives.
Later on this year, to commemorate World Fisheries Day, a report article on UserRights/Rights Based Fishing, multi-stakeholderism and co-option of fisher movements will be released by the WFFP.
A fishing policy is for small-scale fishing communities at large and access rights should be allocated on an equitable basis instead of only benefiting the few. This is also one of the fundamental principles of our national Small-Scale Policy where fishing rights will be allocated to communities.