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The Western Indian Ocean State’s efforts to help bring about improved marine fisheries reforms and governance in the South West Indian Ocean range states are beginning to bear fruit following a recent decision to reform the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission from an advisory body to a full management body.
Through its Coastal East Africa Initiative, WWF has consistently lobbied the South West Indian Ocean range states of Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania and Yemen to strengthen their policy, legal and institutional framework in order to help bring about fisheries stock sustainability and increase socio-economic benefits to the over 65 million people that inhabit the coastal zone of the Western Indian Ocean.
During a special adhoc session of the South West Indian Ocean Commission (SWIOFC) held in Dar es Salaam Tanzania on the 27th – 28th of February 2013, members unanimously agreed and endorsed the decision to reform the SWIOFC from an advisory body to a full management body. This important transition will enable the Commission to facilitate binding and non-binding decisions that ensure adequate and professional management of fisheries in the region.
The member states furthermore decided to host the secretariat of the Commission in Mozambique, in an effort to bring the centre of coordination closer to the region.
Speaking during the meeting, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Tanzania Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries Dr. Johana Budeba welcomed the decision, noting, “The SWIOFC is an important Regional Fisheries Management Body and it is prudent that we put in place mechanisms and interventions to have it strengthened for improved fisheries governance”.
WWF Coastal East Africa Initiative Fisheries Programme Officer Edward Kimakwa, speaking during the same meeting urged South West India Ocean member states to continue with their efforts to collectively promote sustainable development and management of the marine fisheries in the region.
“We need to see in the near future a situation where SWIO states are effectively controlling and equitably benefiting from sustainable marine fisheries stocks. Strengthening the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission as a fisheries management body will certainly go a long way in bringing about stock sustainability and increased socio-economic benefits to the SWIO coastal states,” noted Mr. Kimakwa.
Fisheries experts have warned that mismanagement of fisheries is costing African countries between 2 and 5 billion dollars every year. Illegal fishing alone accounts for the loss of fish valued at 1 billion dollars every year from the waters of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The decision to establish a regional fisheries management commission comes at an opportune time considering that the South Western Indian Ocean Fisheries Project (SWIOFP) is coming to a close. The SWIOFP project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the World Bank, has been an important factor not only in establishing a much improved knowledge base on the fisheries of the region, but also in building up a strong coherence between the countries of the region.
The transformation of SWIOFC into a Fisheries Management Organisation is the icing on the cake for this project and provides an important basis for future interventions in the sector. WWF, in this regard, is engaged in discussions with the World Bank and other partners on a follow-up project that will build upon the success of SWIOFP and other initiatives.
By Edward Kimakwa, Peter Scheren & John Kabubu