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Countries from the Indian Ocean Islands and East Africa have come together to develop strategies to tackle illegal fishing and increase accountability in fisheries practices.
For two days, representatives from the fishing industry, civil society, governments and fishing administrations from Seychelles, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique, met on Mahe Island, Seychelles, to discuss the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), a global initiative to tackle illegal fishing.
African countries are particularly vulnerable to overfishing and depletion of fish stock due to opaque and unregulated fishing practices by both foreign companies as well as local communities. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the fisheries sector in Africa employs more than 12 million people. However, the depletion of fish stock in Africa is a major push factor in the migration of young people to Europe and elsewhere.
The FiTI Western Indian regional workshop was organized by the African Natural Resources Center of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Government of Seychelles, the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), and the FiTI International Secretariat.
The event, which took place from June 27-28, aimed at enhancing the understanding of fisheries administration, transparency in the sector and how FiTI can yield benefits for communities and other stakeholders. The workshop also aimed at raising the interest of the IOC and Eastern African countries to participate in FiTI and adhere to the FiTI standard.
“Transparency is essential for responsible and accountable fisheries practices,” said Jean-Louis Kromer, Chief Natural Resources Management Officer of the African Natural Resources Center. “The African Natural Resource Center of the AfDB has been actively involved in the FiTI conceptual phase leading to the FiTI standard, because we believe it can effectively improve the governance of the fisheries sector in Africa, helping to secure the livelihoods of millions of Africans living in fishing communities.”
The FiTI standard is an agreement on 12 transparency requirements which are applicable for all countries who adhere to the standard and include, among others, the publication of all foreign fishing agreements, the publication of existing national reports on the state of fish stocks, and a public registry of national fisheries laws, regulations and official policy documents.
According to Michael Benstrong, Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture of Seychelles, “Basic information on the fisheries sector should be in the public domain. Public access to information on how the environment is being exploited is considered a basic for the demand-side of governance. This, I am glad to say is one of the requirements in order to become and maintain a FiTI compliant country.”
“All stakeholders, governments, business, civil society, academia and media must contribute their knowledge and experiences to together conserve and sustainably use our oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. This participation cannot work without transparency and having access to basic information,” said Sven Biermann, Director of the FiTI International Secretariat.