The Malta Independent 30 September 2022, Friday
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Showcasing our strengths, bolstering our vulnerabilities

Alicia Bugeja Said Sunday, 18 September 2022, 09:46 Last update: about 13 days ago

Organising last week’s Festa Ħut activities in Marsaxlokk brought with it an immense personal satisfaction. Observing different stakeholders in the fishing industry, interact in a multitude of ways with different segments of the public, truly brought to the fore the vitality of our local fishing sector.

From the showcasing of the different types of fish available in the Maltese waters, to the different types of methods and tools, both traditional and modern, utilised by our local fishermen; it is rare that this industry is showcased from a multilateral perspective, in a way which is not only accessible, but also entertaining to the general public.

Often times, this staple of our Maltese culture, history and economy, does not get the public appreciation it fully deserves. Hence, why local festivities, organised hand-in-hand with the community, bridge the gap that exists between small-scale fisheries such as the one in our country, and the rest of the Maltese and Gozitan population. This event was made further special by the organisers’ decision to dedicate all of the funds raised during the event towards local charities. Thus, the benefits are spread, and especially reach those most in need.

However, to purposely misuse a quote, such vibrancy in our fishing sector is only as effective as the mastering of restraint. In this government’s case, we understand that providing a platform for the showcasing of our industry’s strengths does not truthfully resonate with the current state of affairs, if we do not strive to strengthen the economic, logistical and infrastructural deficiencies within.

The United Nations recently declared this year as the International Year for Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture. The timing of such a declaration cannot be undervalued; the fishing sector in Malta is mostly based on small-scale associations and individuals, rather than large multi-national corporations. While this system allows for further preservation of traditional techniques, as well as added flexibility in how our fishermen operate, the lack of inherent structural cohesion also means further susceptibility to economic and geographical setbacks, both local and regional.

The regional conflict in Ukraine and the unstable political tensions in certain neighbouring countries in the Mediterranean have certainly played their part. These developments, occurring so soon after the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic, have left our fishing industry with very little time to recover sufficiently, at least without direct policy and financial intervention by government. However, focusing solely on short-term solutions, without providing for environmental sustainability in the wake of ever-increasing issues brought by climate change, is frankly not an option.

In the wake of all of these questions, Malta’s decision to organise the Fourth World Small-Scale Fisheries Congress in MCAST, Paola during these past few days, could provide all stakeholders with a well-timed path forward. With no less than 150 delegates arriving into our country from all corners of the earth, it is as pertinent as ever to remember that these issues are not solely local, nor regional, but global.

The topics under discussion were varied yet topical, with questions around efficient and transparent governance, adherence to Sustainable Development Goals, the promotion towards low-impact fishing, the utilisation of adequate and appropriate  financial assistance, as well as structural economic and social inequalities within the fishing industry… all of which were examined in detail.

Both Festa Ħut and the World Fisheries Congress, exemplify the need for cooperation, cohesion and coordination, both on a local and global scale. It is foolish for one to assume that these problems are best solved internally, resorting to internal or nationalistic tendencies over and above multi-lateral stakeholder dialogue. On the other hand, government and all public entities must remain constantly in contact with all local stakeholders, ensuring that the local needs and aspirations of our fishing community are heard, even in the most significant of international fora.

I augur that the fruits of both events are not only of benefit in the short-term. Rather, we hope that they create a way forward which is prosperous for our communities and sustainable for our environment, while remaining an integral part of the Maltese community fabric.

 

Alicia Bugeja Said is the parliamentary secretary for

Fisheries, Aquaculture and Animal Welfare

 

 

 

 

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