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The SADC Fisheries Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Coordination Centre – set to enter into force in April 2023

Gaborone, 9 March 2023. The Republic of Botswana became the eleventh signatory of the Charter establishing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance Coordination Centre (MCSCC) on 09 March 2023.

The signing took place at a ceremony in Gaborone, Botswana, with guest of honour, Honourable Molebatsi Shimane Molebatsi, Assistant Minister of Agriculture in Botswana signing the Charter, in the presence of the SADC Deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration Ms Angele Makomo N’tumba.  The signing translates into – reaching the two thirds majority mark required for the Charter to enter into force in order for the Regional MCSCC to be established to assist the region in prioritising the protection of fisheries to underpin greater benefits and blue economy growth.
The MCSCC will coordinate regional fisheries data and information sharing services, a regional fishing vessel register, provide fisheries surveillance services, coordinate fisheries observers and support the implementation of port state measures, provide fisheries enforcement and legal support services, and support improvements in the capacity of national MCS systems.
The Charter will officially enter into force in 30 days, as now two-thirds of Member States have signed. The MCSCC will be based in Maputo, Katembe municipal district, and the Government of Mozambique is ready to implement this with support from other SADC Member States, and funding from the World Bank. Land has already been secured and prepared for the construction of the Centre in Katembe.
Messages of support and commitments to continue cooperation with SADC in realising this Centre were received during the ceremony from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United States (US) Embassy to Botswana, United Kingdom (UK) High Commission to Botswana, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF).
In his keynote address, Honourable Molebatsi Shimane Molebatsi, Assistant Minister of Agriculture in Botswana stated that “By uniting through the Regional Fisheries Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Coordination Centre (MCSCC), coordinated schemes for inspection of fishing vessels and gears, coordinated border controls to monitor fish trade, shared intelligence and information and the cooperative use of remote and physical inspection tools, robust protection for a region, their resources and their markets are developed. When resources are pooled together, they are strengthened, made more efficient and support wider and more comprehensive detection of illegal operators creating a real barrier and deterrence to IUU fishing”.

Ms Angele Makomo N’tumba, Deputy Executive Secretary-Regional Integration at SADC Secretariat, echoed Ssemakula’s sentiments, indicating that “The realisation of this Centre marks a turning point, from which we now have the means to facilitate our full collaboration to protect our fisheries for our common future. We have now moved closer to realizing the aspirations of the region as contained in the 2008 Statement of Commitment to Combat IUU Fishing by SADC Ministers of Fisheries”.

Today, SADC Fisheries Ministers allowed the region to make one more historic step “towards their common future”. And they are giving themselves the means to achieve this goal . 
The operationalisation of the MCSCC is a turning point, for which the SADC countries and relevant actors have been getting ready for the last decade. It gives green light to Mozambique to lay the foundation stone of the physical MCSCC Centre in Maputo. Mark Ssemakula, chairperson of Stop Illegal Fishing stated “The first activity of Stop Illegal Fishing was to support the SADC Secretariat and Member States to develop the Statement of Commitment on IUU fishing in 2008. Since then, illegal operators have been fined, vessels have been confiscated, and corrupt networks have been disrupted, through this, a much greater understanding about IUU fishing operators has developed and with this knowledge we are better armed to overcome it. But if we have learnt one thing, it is that we can only fight this plague together, united in our work. Therefore, today is without doubt a significant milestone in giving our enforcement personnel the political and practical support they need to put an end to IUU fishing in Southern Africa.”

For Solani Mhango, WWF Country Director “Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing is one of the main causes of overfishing and a barrier to achieve sustainable management of fish stocks in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Overfishing causes economic losses to SADC countries, as overfished stocks produce and contribute less to the socio-economy of the region. Therefore, an operational SADC MCSCC addressing effectively IUU Fishing in commercial fisheries is one of the priorities in the WWF strategy for the South west Indian Ocean (SWIO) Seascape and SADC Region, and, WWF commits to continue its support to this initiative and others in the region.”

Reference Background:
Twenty-two years ago, in 2001, the Heads of State or Government of the SADC signed the Protocol on Fisheries, in which they marked their conviction of the “necessity for cooperative and integrative actions at the regional level to optimise the sustainable use of the living aquatic resources of the Region for the continued benefit of the people of the Region”. This landmark Protocol has been a steppingstone for region-wide commitment to fisheries cooperation, with the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as one of the main targets. In Namibia, in 2008, the Statement of Commitment by SADC Ministers responsible for fisheries on IUU fishing highlighted the growing concern on the harmful consequences of IUU fishing and called for the creation of a regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Centre.

This commitment materialized in 2017 through the Charter establishing the SADC Fisheries MCSCC, which was approved by the SADC Council of Ministers in Pretoria, South Africa. The establishment of the SADC MCSCC builds on the SADC Common Agenda and aims to deepen the integration agenda with a view to accelerating poverty eradication and the attainment of economic and sustainable development goals. By developing shared policies, regulations and controls the SADC MCSCC will feed into SADC integration milestones to develop a free trade area, customs union and a common market
The Charter was to come into force following ratification by two-thirds of SADC Member States. Today, 9 March 2023, Botswana has become the eleventh signatory of the Charter, reaching the required two-third threshold, after Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.