Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 15.COM 8.B.9

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Tunisia has nominated Charfia fishing in the Kerkennah Islands (no. 01566) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Charfia fishing in the Kerkennah Islands is a traditional, passive fishing technique that capitalises on the hydrographic conditions, seabed contours and natural resources both at sea and on land. The ‘charfia’ is a fixed fishery system consisting of palm fronds embedded in the seabed to create a triangular barrier, blocking the path of the fish pulled in by the ebb tide and channelling them into capture chambers and finally into a net or trap. Unlike bottom trawling systems that scrape the seabed, the traps keep the fish alive and fasting until raised. It is customary to install and operate the charfia only between the autumn equinox and June to ensure the marine wildlife have a biological rest period. The charfias are rebuilt each year, accompanied by social practices such as sharing a meal or rogatory prayers. The practice of charfia fishing requires extensive knowledge of underwater topography and marine currents. Many of the inhabitants of Kerkennah learn to fish from an early age and it is also common for a rñїs to leave his fishery to his eldest son to perpetuate ownership. Vocational training centres also provide indirect training. Charfia fishing is the main fishing technique used in the Kerkennah Islands. The entire local community participates in the different phases of the process in varying degrees, from installing the charfia and the accompanying rituals to raising the traps, making this a unifying element for all Kerkennians.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The knowledge of marine fauna, marine currents and operating seasons, as well as the skills involved in preparing the components and installing the charfia, are transmitted from generation to generation in a community setting, through direct observation and practice. The bearers and practitioners are identified specifically and their differentiated roles and modes of involvement are specified. The element serves a unifying role for the community, fostering a spirit of solidarity and contributing to social integration. It represents a sort of hallmark and identity symbol for the archipelago. Charfia fishing is a sustainable practice that draws upon the natural resources and geographical conditions of the islands. Unlike many other fishing techniques, it does not destroy the seabed and respects the natural life cycle of marine fauna.

R.2:   The inscription of the element on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity will highlight the island and maritime culture as a system of transcultural and transterritorial knowledge, skills and practices, since it is broadly distributed throughout the world and widely shared by communities, groups and individuals. Furthermore, it is described as an example of the harmonious relationship between intangible cultural heritage and its physical environment, in line with sustainable development.

R.3:   The existing safeguarding measures have been well mapped out and designed, including in terms of the participatory approach adopted to develop suitable measures with the non-governmental organizations involved. To ensure the viability of the element as well as to protect it from the unintended consequences of the increased visibility and public attention resulting from the inscription, administrative, legal, cultural, and especially environmental measures are proposed by the community concerned, non-governmental organizations and official bodies. The proposed safeguarding measures include transmission, research and documentation, revitalization and promotional activities, demonstrating a commitment to sustainable development.

R.4:   The local communities were the driving force behind this nomination. In addition to their effective participation in the steering committee and their important educational role as facilitators for the local population, they provided information, private archive documents and audio-visual materials, as well as financial support for activities and events organized throughout the entire nomination process.

R.5:   The element was included in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in September 2017, and was updated in February 2019. The institution responsible for the inventory is the National Heritage Institute, Department of Inventory and Study of Ethnographic Properties and Contemporary Arts. The inclusion followed a multinational project carried out in collaboration with UNESCO. This project also included members of the communities, who took surveys and interviewed individuals.

  1. Decides to inscribe Charfia fishing in the Kerkennah Islands on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;

  2. Commends the State Party for clearly explaining how the inscription of an element on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity can contribute to ensuring the visibility and awareness of the significance of intangible cultural heritage;

  3. Further commends the State Party for submitting a file with a clear focus on the interconnections between intangible cultural heritage and the natural environment, contributing to the maintenance of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources;

  4. Reminds the State Party that updating is an important part of the inventorying process and invites it to include detailed information in its next periodic report on the implementation of the Convention at the national level concerning the periodicity of updating of the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tunisia, in accordance with Article 12.1 of the Convention.

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