Archbishop Marchetto's Address to Fishing Meeting

"Work in the Fishing Sector Has Many Characteristics That Set It Apart"

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address delivered today by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, at the sixth annual Apostleship of the See (AOS) International Fishing Committee Meeting, which is taking place today in the Vatican.



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Dear participants, dear friends,

Welcome to our sixth AOS International Fishing Committee Meeting. We are gathering every year, since 2003, because the Church cannot ignore the distressing situation in which many fishers and theirs families are living. It is therefore really urgent to take more decisive steps to develop old and new approaches to the pastoral care aimed at the world of fishers.

There are over 30 million fishers worldwide. Of these, over 15 million are working full time on board fishing vessels. You all know that work in the fishing sector has many characteristics that set it apart. Fishing takes place in challenging marine condition. The rate of accidents and fatalities in this sector are quite high in fact, in many countries fishing is the most hazardous occupation. In any case the AOS has always shown a special interest for fishers with a direct involvement of many chaplains and volunteers in their life.

We are glad to welcome H. E. Msgr. Domenico Mogavero, Bishop of Mazara del Vallo, who will share with us his experience about his special pastoral visit to the fishers, "on high sea." We welcome also Mrs. Cassandra De Young, Fishery Policy Analyst. Fisheries and Aquaculture Economics and Policy Division FAO, who will talk about the impact of the climate changes on the fishing industry, and Mr. Dani Appave, ILO Maritime specialist, Sectoral Activities Department, who will provide us the latest update on the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188). Our statute in fact foresees a representation of such international Organizations in our meeting.

The diverse experiences of our special guests, will give a characteristic input to our reflection and will help us to refocus on our commitment to fulfill the mandate of our Pontifical Council, and consequently of AOS, which is the promotion of the spiritual, social and concrete well-being of fishers and their families in collaboration also with other Churches, Ecclesial Communities, Agencies and NGOs.

From ancient times, fishing has been a major source of food for humanity and a provider of employment and economic benefits to those engaged in this activity. However, in recent years the technological development of fishing vessels and the globalization of the industry has created a deep impact on the general situation and the livelihood of many fishers and fishing communities.

Records kept by FAO indicate that of the world's fifteen main fishing regions, four are depleted and nine are declining. Catches are falling, despite the fact that expanding fleets are fishing harder, spending more time, effort and money than before in trying to maintain them. Some commercially important stocks are in such a critical state that all fishing has been shut down, or strongly limited. Hundreds of millions of people traditionally dependent on fishing for food and livelihoods face resource depletion, competition from industrial and distant water fleets, and loss of access to traditional marine food supplies.

Nature's limits have been stretched and it cannot be allowed to continue this way if the oceans and the human communities around the world that depend on them are to survive. Governments are responsible to strictly enforce laws and regulations to protect the oceans especially from Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing. At the same time it is necessary to educate fishers and favor their participation in this effort of protection.

The Work in Fishing Convention, 2007, is the most important international instrument for this sector in the last forty years. With this Convention ILO would like to fulfill its mandate, to promote decent work in fishing by covering many of the issues (accommodation, medical care, contract, abandonment, etc.) pertaining to the working and living conditions on board of fishing vessels. The unique possibility of gradually implementing certain provisions of the Convention, depending on the reality of each country and the kind of fishing fleet involved, will contribute to the creation of a much safer fishing industry incorporating the latest technological development as far as fishing vessel design and fishing gear are concerned.

The journey for the ratification of this Convention is proceeding but at a much slower pace than its counterpart the seafarers Maritime Labor Convention (MLC 2006). After the adoption of the Fishing Convention, the ILO organized several tripartite (that is representatives of governments, employers and workers) Regional Seminars, trying to provide better reception and understanding of the Convention and at the same time to gather first hand data of the real social and labor situation of the countries.

During these Seminars the presentations by governments, employers and workers representatives provided important information about obstacles to the ratification of the Convention in each country.

Moreover, in several places, it was noted that it is necessary to improve co-ordination among different government departments responsible for the application of the Convention, such as those related to labor, fisheries and maritime matters.

It was suggested that it is important to previously identify what are the aspects relative to the progressive implementation of the Convention, so that in the process each country can select exclusions and progressive applications of provisions, through national legislation.

The need to strengthen tripartite processes of consultation and technical assistance in all the countries to further the ratification process was also stressed. Countries should ask ILO to continue with technical assistance and information campaigns, workshops and seminars to raise awareness especially among fisheries communities.

Being, in one hand, directly involved at the grass root level with many fishing communities and, on the other, being in contact with many government departments, AOS could play an important role at this stage of the process of ratification.

First of all AOS should be involved in improving the traditional ways with which the fishing sector is organized, mostly made up by elusive and fragmented fishing owners and organizations, by helping to form a new leadership especially among the younger people. Secondly AOS should assist towards a deeper respect for the dignity of fishers.

As we begin this day I would like to entrust our meeting to the Blessed ever Virgin Mary, the Star of the Sea, saying : "Hail Mary [...]"