Overcoming a few local language difficulties, John Coventry learns how the arrival of foreign fishing trawlers has ruined the livelihoods of local Pakistani fishermen.
"You are a communications officer? AAAAAHAHAHAHA!"explodes the President of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum. The staff here find my ten-to-the-dozen London accent both hilarious and impossible to understand. Must try harder. After all, if I fall into the sea on this morning's trip into Karachi's coastal fishing waters, I want my screams to be greeted with something more than giggling fits.
In a small but beautifully decorated fishing boat we head out to sea. As we chug along, I ask the people how life has changed for them.
I used to be the captain of my own boat," says one. "Now, I cannot afford it. I had to sell it to pay my debts." According to Mustafa (our ActionAid expert on the trip) diesel, engineering and other costs have rocketed, while the price of fish has stayed roughly constant since the early 1990s.
"I am worried that I will have to take my children out of school," says the fisherman, pointing to what he feels is already ruining his livelihoods. Row upon row of foreign fishing trawlers line up in the port, crowded with crew. The piled up nets look huge "As big as three statues of liberties" says the fisherman with theatrical disgruntlement.
As we drive on, we learn about how fragile the eco system is here, how the unique mix of salt and fresh water used to be perfect breeding grounds for shrimp, but are now so polluted and over-fished that few are left.
"Every day I used to catch five or six hundred rupees of fish. Now, it takes me ten to sixteen days to catch that amount."
Without action the era of the fisher folk’s will end soon. It’s not a stand-alone case. In many countries unfair trade deals, weighted massively in favour of the rich and powerful, sweep communities like this aside in the name of economic growth.
Don't get me wrong - growth is important - but it’s not the end of the story. The Pakistani Fisherfolk are testament to that.