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On the eve of Our Ocean: Financing the Forgotten Fisheries

Small-scale fisheries were on the agenda a day before the Our Ocean Conference.
President Tommy Remengesau of Palau says that small island developing states and small-scale fisheries should never be considered small or insignificant – investments in these sectors make a real impact.

The evening before the opening of the #OurOcean Conference, a Financing the Forgotten Fisheries event hosted in Malta by the NGO Rare addressed the challenge of how to attract financing aimed at strengthening small-scale fisheries communities.

Addressing the gathering, President Tommy Remengesau of the Republic of Palau spoke of his admiration for the new terminology he’s hearing more frequently for small island developing states, namely, ‘Large Ocean States’. 

He spoke about how central oceans are to the lives of ocean dwellers, and how linked the oceans are to their livelihoods, culture and ways of life. And President Remengesau includes himself in this description, quipping, “I’m just a fisherman who took time away from my work to become a public servant. And when my term ends, I will go back to fishing.”

President Remengesau told participants how pleased he was to see small-scale fisheries gaining strength on the international development agenda. He pointed to the importance of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Small-scale Fisheries and stressed how well appreciated they are by fisherfolk associations, who feel a real ownership of the guidelines.

Brahamantya Satyamurti, the Drector-General of Marine Spatial Management of Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries spoke about Indonesia’s efforts to strengthen its small-scale fisheries sector and noted that this will be an area for emphasis at the 2018 Our Ocean Conference, which will be held in Indonesia.

President and CEO of Rare, Brett Jenks, spoke about advances in recent years in what he called blended financing for small-scale fisheries activities, a sector which has for too long been forgotten or overlooked. He pointed to an example of a Rare activity working with small-scale fisheries in the Philippines. In those activities, Rare could count on financing from philanthropists and public funding from Germany and the US. This funding was augmented by local municipal funds by Filipino communities. Jenks spoke about these three different layers of funding, and believes these types of blended financing models can be used more frequently moving forward with small-scale fisheries activities.

An interesting panel discussion addressed a wide range of issues related to seeking financing for small-scale fisheries work.

FAO’s Árni M. Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General of Fisheries and Aquaculture also spoke to the gathering, noting that the “FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Small-scale Fisheries is inspired by the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. These guidelines take a solid human rights-based approach to the small-scale fisheries sector.” He further noted that, “While implementing firm social policies and protections is crucial to these small-scale fisheries communities, these changes must go hand-in-hand with strong fisheries management policies in order to effect real change for current and future generations of coastal fishing communities.”

Panel discussion and audience input was wide-ranging, exploring ideas to attract more investment - including private, for-profit investment, in the small-scale fisheries sector. All participants agreed that strong governance is a prerequisite for small-scale fisheries sectors hoping to attract financing.

In his closing words to the session, Palau’s President Remengesau summed up the potential impact well, stating “For both small island developing states and small-scale fisheries, small is too often considered insignificant. There is nothing ‘small’ about supporting the livelihoods of vulnerable islanders. There is nothing small about supporting the small-scale fisheries communities that guarantee food security for over a billion people. Small islands and small-scale fisheries are big issues.”

Rare’s Financing the Forgotten Fisheries event was held at The Villa in Saint Julian’s, Malta.
Árni M. Mathiesen noted that the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Small-scale Fisheries is inspired by the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.
The panel session and audience input inspired interesting debate and discussion – and ideas for moving forward.
The Rare event was held in St. Julian’s, Malta.

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