We are publishing the draft Fishermen’s Charter 2017 into English for our readers. It follows some 20 meetings with fishermen all over the country.
Towards a FISHERMEN’S CHARTER 2017
We, fishermen and women have contributed to food security throughout the history of the Republic of Mauritius – be it in Mauritius Island, Rodrigues, Agalega or Chagos. We, coastal village dwellers, have acted as the permanent custodians of the sea, the beach and nearby land. Our craft demands that we live by the sea. Our families and our villages must be able to survive.
We now accuse the Government of a “development strategy” leading to the eradication of fishermen.
This Charter means we are beginning to resist!
The Lepep Government and 25 years of successive regimes have, one after the other, encircled and then begun to eradicate fishermen. This attack is the direct, or indirect, result of 4 aspects of Government policy:
- Tourism: The tourist industry is gobbling up coastal land. Government strategy to sell off sugar estate land and lease state land for villa projects (IRS, PDS, etc) exacerbates this greed. The coast, lagoons and even the sea is being usurped. Government lets in foreign investors for tourism services; this too provokes anti-fishermen policies.
- Industrial Fishing: Industrial boats from Spain, Portugal, France, etc. fish ever-closer, pillaging right near the artificial reefs and even in the big lagoons.
- Sugar Estates have closed down jobs – Government persists in paying sugar bosses to close down jobs (VRS for labourers and closure for mill workers) instead of keeping and creating jobs for our families (in the fields, the mills and transportation). It subsidises Estates to sell off their land to billionaires from all over the world.
- Housing: Government has not built new social housing on the coast since 1960s-70s. Meanwhile, the price of land has risen astronomically with the policy of real estate speculation around villas and tourism.
In these 4 policy areas, there is no “development” but pillage that constitutes an attack on all Mauritian workers.
So, from 2017, after fishers’ meetings around the coast, we move towards this Fishermen’s Charter.
1. For Fishermen’s Lives at Sea
- Stop big fishing boats from abroad pillaging our seas! Government must set up its own fleet of boats! This will create jobs for young fishers, and maintain a stable supply of tuna for the fish factories in Port Louis.
- Stop big fishing boats getting nearer than a specific distance! (12 or 200 nautical miles from the reef.)
- Stop handing out any new permits for Charter Boats! Stop the over-fishing!
- Limit permits for hotel boats! Stop all new boat permits for individuals (e.g. Black River Marina or Anbalaba).
- Halt all new speedboat permits!
- Regulate sea sports! Stop them messing up fishermen’s work, and the lives of their families and co-villagers.
- Look after the artificial reefs! Give loans for second motors, and for fishers’ equipment to face the high seas.
- Re-populate the lagoons! Limit and control aquaculture, follow the precautionary principle.
2. For Fishermen’s Lives by the Sea
Re-negotiate the WTO (World Trade Organization) treaties to take back tourism services from foreign investment.
Ensure that fishermen have:
- Place to moor boats
- Space to bring boats on the beach for maintenance, servicing, and for cyclones
- Access to river mouths for foraging for bait, stop privatizing river estuaries
- Sufficient access to walking along the beach everywhere, for fishers and the public
3. For Fishermen’s Lives at Home
- Build new housing for young fishermen families! Give access to land for families for planting and animal rearing!
- Build amenities: schools, colleges, dispensaries, football fields and green spaces!
4. For Fishermen’s Lives, through Job-Creation for their families and their villages
- Stop sugar estates selling their land for villas! Stop leases for state land for villas, hotels, golf courses for the rich!
- Stop withdrawing ageing fishermen’s cards if they still fish! Give new cards for the youth! Publish criteria for cards! - Publish list of applicants and reason for Authorities’ decision, by fish-landing station! Set up an appeals procedure!
- Develop fish storage for every fish landing station, so that fishermen increase their income!
- Set up fish canneries, industries for pickled fish, creating work near where fishers live!
- Force sugar estates to plant food crops, build factories before the first harvest to preserve and process the food! This way, families have more food security, and the country increases its foreign exchange earnings to cover imports.
5. Take Care of Fishermen in general terms
We want insurance! (e.g. like cane planters have) We need pensions, proper sick leave, guaranteed monthly revenue, a more useful definition of “bad weather” for the allowance! All this to keep alive the fine traditions of our craft.
Launched by LALIT September 2017 after some 20 Joint Meetings between LALIT Regional Committees and Fishermen in the area.