The CBC recently reported on a stall in the development of United Nations' guidelines to support and protect small-scale fisheries. Canada was the only country objecting to a paragraph introduced at the last round of the technical consultation in February because of its reference to fishing people living "in situations of occupation". The guidelines serve as recommended measures for countries to take - they are by no means mandatory action for any nation. Each country has the right to observe its own policies and national agreements in conjunction with these guidelines. Canada’s refusal to support the guidelines without any clear indication as to the reasoning, leads many to make assumptions about political motivations. In addition, it leaves Canadians involved in family-run fisheries to wonder about the position the nation takes, with respect to their livelihoods and wellbeing. According to Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee, Canada Research Chair and a professor with the Department of Geography, small boat fisheries in Newfoundland and elsewhere in Canada could use the guidelines "to support changes in policy, improve fisheries governance and [promote] sustainable livelihoods."
Dr. Chuenpagdee was interviewed for the CBC article; she has a vested interest in the progress of the guidelines as the Project Director of Too Big To Ignore, a project whose mission it is to "elevate the profile of small-scale fisheries; argue against their marginalization in national and international policies, and to develop research and governance capacity to address global fisheries challenges." The FAO guidelines are aligned with this mission, and have an impact on how fisheries worldwide are governed. Dr. Chuenpagdee has been involved in the process of developing these guidelines, and was an observer at the first technical consultation. As she explains it, the process has been thorough and tactful. Representatives of FAO member states discuss the text, word by word, line by line, until consensus is achieved. Unfortunately, this was not the case at the February consultation because of Canada’s objection to the text in that one paragraph, even as 90+ other countries participating in the discussion were fine with it. Dr. Chuenpagdee is attending the next Committee on Fisheries meeting in Rome on June 9, when the guidelines will be discussed. She hopes that Canadian government will change its position by then and join the rest of the world in supporting these important guidelines for small-scale fisheries.