Anaklia’s artisan fishermen operate in unfavorable conditions
A significant number of the residents of Anaklia village (Zugdidi municipality) make a living from small-scale, artisanal fishing. Transparency International (TI) Georgia decided to inquire about these fishermen’s working conditions and visited Anaklia to talk to them.
Licence: Complex terms and high cost
Most fishermen in Anaklia do not have fishing licences, which is a major problem for them. They told TI Georgia that in order to receive a licence one must own a fishing boat, pay a fee of several thousand GEL and satisfy several important criteria, which they cannot comply with. These fishermen own small, simple boats or boats with small engines and use simple fishing nets.
The Department of Environment Supervision explained to us that the National Environment Agency periodically conducts auctions to award fishing licences and the terms differ in individual cases. For now, licences for fishing in the Black Sea have been awarded until April of 2016. New auctions will be announced again in 2016.
According to the fishermen we spoke to, large amounts of fish in the Black Sea are caught only by licensed companies, Turkish fishing companies among them, while the fishing area for local fishermen is very limited.
Limited fishing area
Without a licence, one may catch fish from the shore or on a boat within 300 meters from the shore, as licensing regulations do not apply to this area. Fishing beyond this point will result in a fine as per the Code of Administrative Violations. This is problematic because, as local fishermen say, they must go at least 4-5 km from the shore to catch a substantial amount of fish.
Lack of modern fishing technology and equipment
Local artisan fishermen, due to lack of a licence, limited resources, outdated equipment and fishing methods cannot compete with companies equipped with modern technology.
According to the fishermen, there are no buoys in the sea to mark the areas where fishing is prohibited. As a result, fishermen are often fined for fishing in prohibited areas. However, according to the administration of Georgia’s Border Police, the State Hydrographic Service of Georgia has included the information on the areas where sailing is prohibited in sea manuals and maps, and it periodically publishes this information in the Fishermen Bulletin and flyers.
Problem of communication with state agencies
Before entering the sea, fishermen are required to notify the Department of Coast Guard. The State Supervision and Control Service of the Sea Administration of the Sea Transportation Agency makes announcements on the weather on the 16th international radio frequency. If small boats are not equipped with the appropriate technology to receive the signal, information regarding storms is transmitted through mobile phones or the fishermen are directly approached by the boats of the Department of Coast Guard.
According to the fishermen, the optimal time for fishing is between 5-6 AM. However, according to them, the Sea Transportation Agency often refuses them entrance due to an upcoming storm, but, according to fishermen, this information is often incorrect. They mostly receive approvals at around 10-11 AM. In their experience, however, the sea is calmer in the morning, and that is why mornings are the best time for fishing. The wind becomes stronger around 10-11 AM, jeopardizing the safety of their boat and making fishing more difficult.
Local fishermen often leave nets attached to floats in the sea, which are fixed in position with anchors. However, during a strong storm the float, along with the net and the anchor can be moved several kilometers or into areas where fishing is prohibited. Frequently, fishermen are not allowed to enter the sea after a storm, as a result of which the fish trapped in nets die and rot. Sometimes dolphins can also get trapped in the nets, and if they are not released in time, they may die as well. Fishermen are also fined when they try to retrieve nets that have been moved into prohibited areas.
Difficulty competing with licenced companies
According to local fishermen, due to intensive fishing by licenced fishing boats, there is almost no more herring in the sea and the amount of mullet has also decreased significantly. One commercial fishing boat catches up to 80-100 tonnes of anchovy in a single catch. Anchovy is also food for other, bigger fish. According to the fishermen, catching large quantities of anchovy causes a decrease in the number of other, bigger fish.
It is prohibited, at all times, to catch fish from the endangered family of sturgeons in Georgia. Despite this, according to local fishermen, licenced fishing boats often catch them. During processing, severed heads of sturgeons are thrown back into the sea, which either wash up on the shore or get trapped in the nets of fishermen. The fishermen do not know if any of the licenced companies have been held liable for catching sturgeon.
Fishermen have recently been requested to purchase radio equipment to be able to communicate their position with the Coast Guard and Sea Patrol. According to the fishermen, such equipment is important for their safety but costs up to 1800-2000 GEL and they cannot afford it.
In the opinion of TI Georgia:
- The National Environment Agency should define fishing licence terms for the upcoming auctions in 2016 in a way that makes it possible not only for big companies, but also for local fishermen with fewer resources to take part.
- Licensing should also be made possible through a simplified procedure and for a small fee.
- Fishermen should be fully informed about rules and terms of licensing in advance.
- An upper limit of fish volume should be defined for artisan fishermen, under which they are allowed to fish without a licence.
- It is also important that the business ombudsman of Georgia investigates the situation in this sector and addresses appropriate agencies with recommendations on how to improve fishing practices and better protect the rights and interests of fishermen from Anaklia and other artisan fishermen.
- It is important that artisan fishermen have an opportunity to develop their fishing business, as in many cases fishing is the only source of income that they have.
- The main problems of fishermen from Anaklia are their limited resources, outdated equipment and lack of knowledge of modern fishing technology. The technology and knowledge gap can only be closed by unification of the fishermen of Anaklia. Therefore, the fishermen should mobilize their resources into a common pool and form an enterprise. They should try to obtain fishing licenses through unified efforts.
Photos by Levan Gabechava