02 / 1998
CONAPACH exists to develop the artisanal sector in Chile and to strengthen its level of organization. The CONAPACH 15th National Congress of Chilean Artisanal Fishermen took place in November 1996. The Congress represents a unique and traditional meeting space for fishing organizations in Chile and allows policies to be decided for the following year. There are now 60,000 people involved in the artisanal fishing sector in Chile, with total catches rising to 811,000 tonnes in 1995.
The opening address pointed out that in Chile neoliberal policies have forced artisanal fishing into a corner by requisitioning use rights that have traditionally resided with the artisanal community. ITQs (Individual Transferable Quotas)are seen as a product of these neoliberal economic policies.
This congress discussed developments over the previous two years since the launch of a national programme of action. The baseline document for the development policy for the artisanal sector was signed in the presence of the President of the Republic in August 1995.
This was a historic moment, as it was the first time that representatives of the State and the artisanal sector have a recognized agreement and set of guidelines. The fundamental part of the development policy aimed at improving the conditions of the communities and the fishermen, through policies concerning the arrangement for artisanal fishing and the strengthening of fishing institutions.
Although the document had no immediate discernible effect, the framework is in place (such as the revised 1991 Fisheries Law)for progress to be made. One of the most crucial elements is the establishment of the artisanal fishing zone that extends for five miles offshore. However, because the State views economic interaction between the industrial and artisanal sectors in this area as the norm rather than the exception, CONAPACH is still striving to close the `holes’ in the five-mile exclusion zone.
A relationship with the Ministry of Public Works was written into the development policy with regard to modernizing harbour infrastructure in bays and inlets. The hope is that this will help prevent traditional artisanal harbours being developed for the benefit of tourism or industrial fishing. It is strongly felt by CONAPACH that bays and inlets are not just geographic features, but also form the roots of artisanal fishing communities and represent complex economic, social, cultural and political spaces. In order to drive this idea to the forefront of government
policy, CONAPACH has participated in the formation of the national coastal zone management policy.
The `development policy’ element of the action programme focused on enabling the local organizations to improve their level of participation. CONAPACH has encouraged the creation of Regional Committees for Fisheries Development which are official counterparts to articulate specific policies to the State. There are currently seven such committees in Chile.
There were several workshops held at the Congress dealing with various aspects of artisanal fishing. Several recommendations and conclusions emerged.
* CONAPACH declared that it will never allow industrial activity in the five-mile exclusion zone, and demanded that the law be changed to remove the articles on industrial activity and bottom-trawling that allow these breaches to happen.
* In view of the critical situation in some bays, non-transferable property rights should be granted on 99-year leases for the exclusive use of artisanal fishing organizations.
* The government should encourage increased national consumption of the artisanal catch which is, overall, very significant to the country’s fish production.
* A network for information on prices in markets in Santiago, the capital of Chile, should be set up along with a national model of co-ordinated sales of fish products from small and medium producer centres.
* To deal with the lack of attention paid to the role of women in the sector, a women’s department within CONAPACH was proposed.
Many fishing countries have a substantial artisanal sector. However, few countries can boast of an effective national level fishworkers’ organisation. CONAPACH plays an important role in Chile in highlighting the livelihood concerns of artisanal fishworkers and in influencing government fishery policies. The importance of this role cannot be over-emphasized given the massive support enjoyed by the industrial fishery sector, and its rapid growth over the past few decades. It is also significant that organisations, such as CONAPACH, are beginning to recognize the contribution of women fishworkers to the fishery sector, and are integrating women’s concerns into their agendas. This is vital if the quest for alternative development strategies in fisheries is to be pursued.
Articles and files
BENNETT, Elizabeth, Pushed into a corner in. Samudra Report, 1998/01, 19