Strengthening The Voice of Pacific Fishers

The International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022) was launched in the Pacific Islands, during an event on Thursday to mark the occasion by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Pacific fishers, the Pacific Community (SPC) and INFOFISH.

The IYAFA 2022 year-long regional campaign will highlight the Pacific fishers’ voices and stories, sharing successes, experiences and lessons learned from small-scale fisheries initiatives in the Pacific. The launch called for action and collaboration with all relevant stakeholders to join efforts in making Pacific IYAFA celebrations successful.

The interactive session provided a unique opportunity to discuss the role that small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers play in food security and nutrition, poverty eradication and sustainable natural resource use, in the region. The panelists have also highlighted the essential role of women in small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture and how they contribute to the community empowerment

“Small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers provide healthy and nutritious food to billions of people and contribute to achieving Zero Hunger. For this very reason, it is incredibly important to recognize millions of small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers,” stated Ms Xiangjun Yao, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for the Pacific Islands

The Pacific region is characterized by vast areas of ocean, dotted by myriads of islands that are home to thousands of coastal communities. These communities hold precious traditional knowledge and rights to inshore marine resources. Over the years, catches of the most accessible coastal resources – fish, seashell and seaweed of the lagoons and reefs have been declining in many Pacific islands. It is estimated that coastal catch added over USD300 million to GDP. In the Pacific, 88 percent of the households consume fish or seafood weekly and 58 kg of fresh fish is consumed per person, per annum in the region.

“Pacific fishers are also adversely impacted by several factors such as climate change, population growth and COVID-19,” said Andrew Smith, the SPC’s Coastal Fisheries and Aquaculture Programme Deputy Director. “SPC is engaged in a strong community-driven approach that will build resilient island communities and sustainable livelihoods” he concluded.

During the event, several video stories from fisheries from Pacific island fishers and fish farmers were shared, including a testimony from Ms Arun Lata, a woman aquaculture farmer from Fiji. “Due to the economic crisis from the health pandemic, my neighbors started to fish from my fish ponds too and I left it open.

We don’t know who is going to survive, who is going to be there with all that’s happening. People need protein in their meal so I let them fish around the tilapia fish ponds,” said Lata.