SADC states developing joint strategy to combat IUU
As campaigns against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing continue in Africa, at least eight countries have resolved to develop a common strategy to counter the practice.
The eight countries, all members of the Southern Africa Development Community – an inter-governmental organization headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana – are drawing up a plan of action on monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) methods. Those methods are planned for both the marine and inland water fisheries in the country, with the intention of countering illicit activities such as illegal fish landings, transshipment at sea, violations of catch limits, and deployment of illegal equipment.
The plan calls for a joint MCS that will strengthen the existing national methods by integrating them at the bilateral and regional levels by the end of 2030.
According to a schedule from SADC, a complete final draft of the MCS strategy and plan of action – which will be enacted over the next decade – is expected by next June, paving the way for piloting sustainable fisheries operations that would ensure each of the SADC member countries achieve food security, increased income for fishing communities, reduction of unemployment, and additional foreign exchange earnings.
Adoption of a common MCS strategy by SADC states would also assure more cost-effective management of the shared marine and inland water resources. The strategy’s adoption of a regional approach to dealing with IUU will also have the support of various stakeholders – such as the World Bank, the European Union, FAO, Indian Ocean Commission, Sea Shepherd Global, Stop Illegal Fishing, SWIOFish1Project, WorldFish, and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Alongside the development of a regional MCS for SADC countries is the proposed establishment and operationalization of a Regional Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance Coordination Centre (MCSCC), to be based in Mozambique. The center, to be established under the supervision of WWF, will serve as the nerve center for the coordination of the region’s fisheries to eliminate any loopholes that would sustain illicit fishing operations.
The establishment of the MCSCC was officially agreed upon by SADC States in 2017, building on a decision reached by leaders from the participating countries in 2001 – when the SADC Protocol on Fisheries was approved. However, the implementation of the MCSCC has been delayed because of a number of factors, which could be attributed to the economic performance of some of the countries, and the changing political circumstances in others.
In addition, because of either the economic or political factors, there has been a delay in the approval of the MCSCC by three additional SADC states. At least 11 countries of the regional inter-governmental organization need to ratify the proposal for setting up of the center.
Already, Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, and Zambia have ratified the proposal for the establishment of a MCSCC to effectively tackle challenges in the fisheries sector “through strengthened regional collaboration and partnerships with relevant stakeholders so as to produce mitigating ecological and socio-economic impacts.”
The anticipated joint MCS and plan of action by SADC States comes at a time when the fisheries sector in Southern Africa is suffering from “overfishing, negative ecosystem impacts, degradation of critical coastal habitats, climate change and IUU.”
“It is the belief of the SADC leaders that if member states are to implement the protocol on fisheries successfully, these challenges have to be adequately addressed,” SADC said.
When the MCSCC becomes fully operational, it is expected to coordinate implementation of recommendations for the improvement of a sustainable fisheries sector in Southern Africa, including the acquisition and use of modern information technology tools to manage, enforce compliance, and assess the sector’s risks by each of the SADC members.
SADC members would also be supported to improve vessel records management structures, and regulations on authorization of domestic and foreign vessel operations – especially in marine waters – to achieve a higher level transparency in the fishing-licensing process.
The current challenge of having many players in Southern Africa’s fisheries sector – with little communication and coordination between them – is expected to be addressed through the intervention of the MCSCC, as SADC countries would be expected to agree on fisheries information sharing.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the MCSCC will also be critical in the implementation of the U.N.’s Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) in Southern Africa.
FAO adds that SADC and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) are likely to align the Regional Plan for Fisheries Surveillance (PRSP) with the SADC’s regional monitoring, control, and surveillance processes including “supporting implementation of actions under MCSCC for alignment with PRSP under the European Union (EU) funded E€OFISH programme.”
Photo courtesy of Stop Illegal Fishing