Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum
Fisherfolk fighting inequality: environmental degradation and unfair detention in Pakistan
Overfishing, environmental pollution, urbanisation and industrial activities have all depleted the main source of income for fishing communities in Pakistan. For the nearly 400,000 fisherfolk in the country and their families, this has made life precarious. Furthermore, for those fishing in the disputed territory between India and Pakistan and along the invisible Arabian Sea border, the risk of detention is high. Indian and Pakistani forces regularly detain each other’s fishing vessels and crews for alleged illegal fishing within each others’ territorial waters. Local fishermen, who cannot clearly see the border, are frequently detained, their boats seized, and many are kept in prison for years.
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) is a rights-based organisation working for the betterment of fishing communities through strengthening their collective voice and representing them in the face of threats to their way of life. Their advocacy and policy based work emphasises creating and maintaining sustainable fishing practices and protecting the local environment.
In November 2017, PFF marked World Fisheries Day with a rally in Karachi. During the rally, hundreds of fishing community members, including men and women, demanded an end to illegal occupation of water reservoirs, overfishing in sea, river and lakes and sea pollution, which have far reaching negative implications on the marine life, small scale fisheries and indigenous fishermen. PFF chairperson Muhammad Ali Shah drew attention to the denial of water bodies to local fisherman who had previously fished there, “Out of a total 1,209 inland water bodies, more than 500 have been illegally occupied by local landlords who exploit poor fishing communities”. He also expressed concern over the frequent detentions of fishermen by Indian authorities and how the industrialisation of the fishing industry affects small-scale fisherman - key concerns of local fishing communities.
PFF is drawing attention to the plight of small-scale fishermen in Pakistan, and ensuring that their rights and the rights of the local environment are not forgotten in the name of industrialisation and development. They have been extremely successful in mobilising large numbers of people around common issues, standing up to the wealthy and powerful against exploitation and inequality.