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KARACHI, Nov 21: Hundreds of enthusiastic fishermen took part in a procession that marched from the Regal Chowk to the Karachi Press Club on Sunday to mark the World Fisheries Day.

The participants of the rally demanded an end to the contract system in the fisheries sector and write off loans for the rehabilitation of flood-affected communities.

Fisherwomen accompanied by male artistes of the community, wearing traditional costumes, performed the popular Leva Dance with replicas of boats, marine life and fishing tools.

The rally attracted hundreds of civil society members, representing different organisations, rights groups and campaigners.

The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum organised such events throughout Sindh and parts of Balochistan coastal towns to highlight their social and economic issues. PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah , General Secretary Saeed Baloch, Tahira Ali, Karamat Ali, Zulfiqar Shah, Makal Shah, Majeed Motani, Kausar Sadiq and Khuda Ganj Shad led the colourful rally in the city.

Fishermen of both marine and inland waters held a variety of colourful activities in their respective areas to commemorate the day. An impressive boat rally was held at the Manchhar Lake in which several decorated fishing vessels, carrying community activists, took rounds to highlight the issues the community was facing there.

According to PFF sources, major events were held in Karachi, Thatta, Hyderabad, Kandhkot and at the Manchhar Lake, where fishermen exhibited fishing tools, decorated small boats and nets and danced to the tune of inspirational songs.

In Karachi, fishermen hailing from coastal villages of Bin Qasim and Keamari towns took part in the events to express solidarity with the world fishers.

A group of 50 creative people were at the forefront to perform theatres and songs. This year the theme was linked to the Pakistan Debt Cancellation Campaign, demanding international financial institutions to write off their debt, announce its use for the rehabilitation of the communities displaced by the recent devastating flood.

The second major point PFF rallies addressed was the abolition of the contract system in fishing and protection of the rights of fishermen living along inland water bodies in the province.

The World Fisheries Day is celebrated every year on November 21 throughout the world by the fisherfolk communities, taking out rallies, holding workshops, public meetings, cultural programmes, plays, exhibitions, music show, and demonstrations to highlight the importance of maintaining the world’s fisheries.

A recent United Nations study reported that more than two-thirds of the world’s fishing areas had been overfished or are fully harvested and more than one-third are in a state of decline because of factors such as the loss of essential fish habitats, pollution, and global warming.

The World Fisheries Day helps in highlighting the importance to human lives, of water and the lives it sustains, both in and out of water. Fish forms an important part of the diets of people around the world, particularly those living near rivers, coasts and other water bodies. A number of traditional communities are taking out rallies to protest against the occupation of fishing resources.

Most human settlements, whether small villages or megacities, are situated in proximity of water bodies. Increasing urbanisation and industrial activities have caused pollution, destroying the natural source of income of the communities living close to these waters. This has also led to the depletion of fish stocks in the immediate vicinity, requiring fishermen to fish farther and farther from their traditional grounds.

Besides, overfishing and mechanisation has also resulted in a crisis -- fish stocks are being depleted through ‘factory’ vessels, bottom trawling, and other means of unsustainable fishing methods.

Unless fishermen address these issues collectively, the crisis will deepen. The day helps highlight these problems, and moves towards finding solutions to the increasingly inter-connected problems fishermen are facing, and in the longer term, to sustainable means of maintaining fish stocks.

World Fisheries Day organisers believe that these celebrations serve as an important reminder that is a must to focus on changing the way the world manages global fisheries to ensure sustainable stocks and healthy oceans ecosystems. Just last month the United Nations General Assembly called on countries that have not yet done so to become a party to the law of the sea regarding jurisdiction over national and international waters, as well as the seabed, and to maintain sustainable fisheries.