IORA’s new working group to support fisheries’ revival post-COVID-19

Published on
July 8, 2020

Four African countries are among nine Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) members that have formed a new working group to explore options for supporting the seafood industry, and the wider marine fisheries and aquaculture industry in and around the Indian Ocean as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on the regional economy.

During a virtual meeting on 23 June of the IORA Cluster Group on Fisheries Management, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Tanzania joined Indonesia, Oman, Bangladesh, and Thailand in launching the working group to explore and recommend specific and viable initiatives for supporting the region’s economic recovery during the post-COVID-19 pandemic period, The Jakarta Post reported.

“We are facing COVID-19 as a common enemy. As an organization comprising countries in the Indian Ocean, the IORA must renavigate its focus toward marine cooperation, including in the fisheries sector,” Indonesian Foreign Ministry Asia-Pacific and African Affairs Director General Desra Percaya said during the meeting, according to the Jakarta Post.

With the COVID-19 pandemic having set back years of progress on advancing the region's fisheries economy, the working group has been tasked with generating new proposals to support the sector, from small-scale fisherfolk to larger commercial enterprises, through and after the pandemic.

Furthermore, the working group is expected to provide a framework for the recovery and growth of Indian Ocean marine tourism, in addition to suggesting better ways of enhancing seafood trade among IORA members, and between members and the rest of world.

The group, which will provide regular updates on its progress to members, is expected to build on the 2017 Jakarta Concord, in which IORA members resolved to promote maritime safety and security while enhancing trade and investment cooperation in the region.

Moreover, the IORA members pledged to promote sustainable and responsible fisheries management and development, enhance disaster risk management, and strengthen academic, scientific, and technological cooperation in the region – among other commitments.

The COVID-19 outbreak comes at a time when IORA members are still battling against persistent overfishing; illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; marine pollution; and a tendency by both public private sectors to over-exploit the Indian Ocean's marine resources.

In the short- and medium-term, IORA is placing emphasis on proper post-harvest processing, promotion of storage and preservation facilities to enable fishing communities reduce losses, and building up adequate seafood stocks to meet increasing demand for a surging population of seafood consumers. 

Photo courtesy of the Indian Ocean Rim Association

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