ECOFISH Programme milestones, supported by Incatema, to ensure biodiversity preservation in the Western Indian Ocean

8 June, 2022

Upon celebrating World Oceans Day, we point out the main milestones of EU-funded ECOFISH Programme. Incatema provides technical assistance to this programme, one of the topics being biodiversity preservation in the Western Indian Ocean, meaning to raise awareness on sustainable development and its implications for fisheries sustainable management.

According to a study carried out by the World Bank in 2016, Western Indian Ocean region may increase its fisheries benefits by 5,000 million US dollars a year through policies oriented towards biodiversity protection, fisheries resources sustainable management and fight against illegal fishing. Benefits that may impact positively traditional fishers’ livelihoods and small-scale producers in Eastern and Southern Africa.

In the past quarter, annual ECOFISH Programme Steering Committee meeting in Lusaka (Zambia), shared the main results of the past year of program implementation ECOFISH. This meeting gathered the following organizations: Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Eastern African Community (EAC), Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO), Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

In the frame of this programme, this past year has seen several collaboration frameworks being signed, such as a Memorandum of Understanding between the Indian Ocean Commission and Mauritius Open University, that dealt with the lack of specialised technical knowledge for fisheries in the region. This collaboration allowed, among others, to launch a bachelors’ degree course for Law, Blue Economy and Fisheries Sustainable Management, that has 20 students enrolled for its first year.

Introducing technology to improve fisheries sustainability

In addition to the milestones described above, the programme launched the Blue Economy Fisheries Satellite Accounts (BEFSA) to guarantee the development of biodiversity preservation and sustainable fishing policies, and that the follow up is evidence-based with data available at regional and national level. Through BEFSA, decision makers in the region benefit from pertinent data as evidence to steer efficiently and sustainably maritime resources in the Western Indian Ocean.

This way, introduction of innovative technology to professionalise further small-scale artisanal fisheries and improve its sustainability through tools such as smart fish aggregation devices. These devices, equipped with satellite technology, sensors, echosounder to estimate biomass and microprocessors, allow to collect and treat raw data on marine species so fishers can receive, via a mobile app, filtered useful information to improve their catches and, therefore, their revenue.

Fight against illegal fisheries

As for fighting illegal fisheries, ECOFISH Programme has recently completed grant award procedures to island and coastal states in the Western Indian Ocean for an aggregated value of EUR 2 million to finance surveillance operations, reinforcing governance for such initiatives and organising two regional patrols.

Programme partners, present in Lusaka, also stressed the importance to trace the most recent development trends in fisheries sector to satisfy real needs for economic operators, taking into account that overfishing and illegal fishing not only impact the oceans environment, but also increase the risk of natural disasters.