The Malta Independent 3 February 2023, Friday
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No single fisher left behind

Alicia Bugeja Said Sunday, 27 November 2022, 08:53 Last update: about 3 months ago

As the world celebrated World Fisheries’ Day earlier this week, the government announced a carefully calibrated, step-by-step consultation process, with the end-goal of creating a new Fishing Strategy. This consultative process will address the entire fishing industry in a conducive and universal manner, something which preceding governments had not done for decades.

During the next few months, we will organise no less than 43 different stakeholder meetings all around Malta and Gozo. The large amount of meetings envisaged in this consultative process is based on a simple concept underpinning all of our efforts.

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No single fisher is to be left behind, no opinion is to be left unaddressed and no innovative idea is to be left unchallenged, in the creation of this strategy. It is only through such a cumultative effort, that we can create a truly transformative strategy.

Our fishing industry is a varied, multi-lateral sector with different biological, socio-economic and cultural dimensions. As I reiterated in my speech, the obstacles faced by fishers in St Paul’s Bay may differ from the ones faced by those in Gnejna, in Gozo or in Marsaxlokk. Moreover, the different types of fishing tools and practices found within the industry also possess their own strengths and weaknesses.

This kaleidoscopic variety, while an innate and vibrant feature of our local fishing sector, must also be addressed in a way which addresses both general issues, as well as individual aspirations. Furthermore, our solutions must be tailor-made for the stakeholders and their different socio-economic and logistical backgrounds from which they emanate.

And yet, it’s important that we see fishing as not just a source of employment for hundreds of fishers or a source of important nutrition for numerous customers. For thousands of families, fishing is a way of life. It is an integral part o­­f the daily routine, woven in their cultural and personal identity for entire generations.

The effects of climate change have made addressing this sector a more arduous task, but also a necessary one. In the face of a global existential threat, the only policy tools robust enough to overcome this obstacle must be uniform and consistently applied.

Balancing between the individual, cultural and economic aspects of this sector is indeed an ardent task. For many years, fishers and relevant stakeholders alike have repeatedly called for a new legislative and policy instrument, which aims to clarify and address a number of unresolved questions in a cohesive and consistent manner.

Our fishers must be equipped with the tools they need to adapt even more sustainable practices, which protect the environment and the marine ecology around us. In turn, we, as policymakers, must ensure that their economic livelihoods are protected, both through ad hoc incentives which respond to sudden threats, as well as consistent frameworks which give our fishers the peace of mind necessary to grow and thrive.

This strategy, therefore, must be one which recognises the task at hand. It must also contain the tools necessary to implement the changes needed.

In the immediate, we also need to ensure that the services that fishers request, from both the private and public sector, are at their most efficient and effective. We must also continue promoting our fishing industry as a way of life and a profession. We want to encourage even more young adults to take interest in this industry as a profession, utilising their energy and penchant for innovation for the benefits of the entire sector. Preserving our traditions also requires us adapting them for today’s needs and utilising their advantages to sustain this industry for the long-term.

Lastly, the promulgation of this new strategy will not simply be a final trajectory for this government. This strategy will serve as a springboard, fostering ever closer dialogue and innovation.

As a student, a researcher and a former Fisheries’ director, I had long appealed that this industry ought to be examined, discussed and addressed in such a cohesive, complete manner. After all these years, we are finally providing all stakeholders the chance to do so.

Thanks to the cumulative progress we aspire that this strategy inspires, we want to leave a lasting legacy for the benefit of an entire industry. Once again, I invite all local fishers to be part of this process, express their opinions and help in creating a better future.

 

Alicia Bugeja Said is the parliamentary secretary for

Fisheries, Aquaculture and Animal Welfare

 

 

 

 

 

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