8.3 Alternative income-generating activities
8.4 Shift from commercial to small-scale fishery
The problems faced by the small-scale fisherfolk along the Andaman coast are complex and diverse. The main ones are dependence on the middlemen, decreasing catches due to competition with commercial or illegal fishery and degrading environment and fishing grounds. Given also the already low income of small-scale fishery and the high number of household members, this social group has serious difficulties to keep its traditional occupation.
A management plan for small-scale fishery has to provide solutions to the main problems. Usually such solutions are divided into short-term and long-term activities founded on a long-term perspective of the social, economic and environmental situation of the area of concern. The main target of such a management plan should be to improve the income generated by small-scale fishery while sustaining the nearshore fishery resources. The following recommendations include short-term as well as long-term activities. Their implementation will depend largely on financial support and on the will to enforce existing fishery regulations.
To increase the income of small-scale fishermen their fishing activities have to be diversified, so that they can shift from one target species to the other, depending on the season, weather, tidal elevation, etc. Also, such diversification of the mainly very selective small-scale fishing gear would decrease the pressure on some main target species, like shrimp. The model calculations in Table 29 have proven that the combination of types of small-scale fishing gear, for example the trammel net and the mackerel gillnet, increases the total amount of money earned by the small-scale fishing households. Additionally, diversification would allow further management of nearshore fishery resources. The use of alternative types of gear would provide an income when seasonal as well as geographic restrictions for certain types of fishing or types of gear are enforced.
Any attempt to break the dependence of fishermen on middlemen should be promoted and the establishment of cooperatives supported. The cooperative in Sai Buak Hoi has proven that the formation of a cooperative can result in an immediate increase of the income derived from small-scale fishery. The necessary steps to form a cooperative have been mentioned earlier. Additionally, these cooperatives would be the best local partners to set up a community-based fishery management system. The increasing income generated by the cooperatives would provide the trust needed to set up local management plans and activities within the village or fishing area covered.
The lack of knowledge on alternative employment opportunities and their impact on existing fishery may become a serious problem in the near future. Such activities may lead to the destructive use of aquatic resources or the destruction of mangroves, which are one of the main grounds for small-scale fishing. This in turn may lead to erosion and to the loss of fishing grounds. A clear analysis of the impact of alternative income-generating activities is needed before they are recommended or promoted.
A negative example is the guided tours through the mangrove creeks and the islands of the bay of Phang-nga. Too many villages offer such tours and the infrastructure needed to answer tourist needs destroys the village communities and the landing sites of traditional fishery. In this view, the development of elevated wooden footpaths through the mangrove has to be analysed critically. Such attraction uses the productive mangrove areas and needs a lot of wood, which typically also comes from the mangrove. If such activities are not controlled, the destruction of mangrove forests will be hastened.
The small-scale fishermen will only be able to stay in business if the income generated through fishery allows them to earn a living for their families. To achieve this goal a major step would be a complete ban on all illegal fishing in nearshore areas. Push netters especially have been tolerated too long. Such illegal fishing activity threatens the livelihood of many families by stealing the catch from legally operating fishermen and systematically destroying the shrimp fry for the next season as well as the nearshore fishing grounds. A buyback scheme combined with proper training to understand the ecological and economic impact should be established. In the case of the Phang-nga bay, both unrepentant and reluctant push-net users have to be punished in accordance with existing rules. Such action is unpopular but urgently needed for the benefit of the legally operating fishermen who otherwise lose their confidence in government policies.
A long-term goal for the prosperity of the small-scale fishermen would be a shift from commercial to small-scale fishery. The government should seriously consider such a shift. Especially in shrimp fishery, the combination of a growing number of cooperatives and decentralized fishery management of local waters would improve the welfare of the fisherfolk. Such a shift could be a ban on trawling periodically increasing the distance from the shoreline. Such development is already taking place indirectly with the use of artificial reefs to exclude trawlers from nearshore fishing grounds.
Properly managed small-scale fishery following the given recommendations and actual enforcement of existing rules and recommendations would promptly be of benefit to small-scale fishermen and would sustain the fishing resources in inshore waters for the use of future generations.