An installment of the “Food Voices” series that focuses on fishermen in Venezuela.
WhyHunger is pleased to be partnering with Andrianna Natsoulas, longtime food sovereignty activist and author of the forthcoming book Food Voices: Stories of the Food Sovereignty Movement. In 2010, Andrianna began a journey across the Americas to capture the stories of people working towards and living a just and sustainable food system. As she continues her journey, spanning from Nova Scotia to Ecuador to Brazil and beyond, we will feature highlights of the stories she gathers.
Julio Cesar Moreno is a fisherman from Chuao in the state of Aragua in Venezuela. For the past 21 years he has been fishing for a variety of fish on his boat, El Una. Julio is active with the National Organization of Artisanal Fishermen and Fisherwomen and is the Latin American Spokesperson for Artisanal Fishermen of the Social Front. Through these organizations, he has helped reshape the fishing law of Venezuela.
“The resource that we have is a finite resource, and it has been overexploited in the past. We, the fishermen, as well as the government, want to make sure the next generation is able to use these resources. We have felt the impacts of pollution and climate change, which is causing there to be less fish. But, here, the Caribbean is feeling these impacts less than in other areas. Up until when are we going to be able to resist these broader environmental impacts? We, the artisanal fishermen, together with the progressive governments have to make sure that we do our part to maintain this resource as clean and healthy as possible. And to always be able to enjoy a good plate of fish.
“The Law of Fishing and Aquaculture protects us. The important element of it is the collective, not the individual. Through this law, we are trying to make it so that what comes from the fishermen goes directly to the people, so people can eat fish very economically. In our fishing law, we have an article that eliminates industrial trawling1 in all of the continental plate around Venezuela. This is the only country that has, by law, eliminated industrial trawling. With industrial trawling, only six percent of their catch would be sold. The rest would be dumped back as waste. Trawling does not give the little fish the opportunity to grow into big fish and reach sexual maturity. It disrupts the environmental equilibrium in the marine ecosystems. This fishing law that we have protects the fisherfolk and the fish. The law was originally passed in 2002. From 2008-2009 was the phasing out of the trawlers. On the 31st of March 2009, it went into effect that the trawlers were completely eliminated. As a result, the national artisanal fish catch has increased by 8 percent.
“We only capture the large fish of good value for markets. All the smaller fish we release so they can grow. This law is also about all the fisherfolk being able to have dignified lives, to be able to have dignified homes, dignified jobs, decent boats. To be able to access an education. Once we retire, to be able to have a good pension, too. These are some of the achievements of the revolution that we fishfolk have helped to bring about.”
1 Industrial trawling is a form of fishing that uses giant nets pulled behind a ship to sweep up everything in its path.