ECOFISH Programme, technically supported by Incatema, consolidates achievements in the fight against illegal fishing in the Southwestern Indian Ocean region

25 October, 2023

ECOFISH, a European Union program technically supported bECOFISH, a European Union program technically supported by Incatema, aimed at the sustainable management of continental and marine fisheries resources in the East African, Southern African, and Indian Ocean region, is consolidating its achievements in the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the region. The implementation of policies for effective fisheries management, protecting them and promoting good practice, is bearing fruit.

This has just been demonstrated during a recent meeting of the Regional Coordination Unit (RCU) of the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Plan (PRSP) held in Seychelles, hosted by ECOFISH program. The meeting confirmed that illegal fishing reports recorded during fisheries surveillance missions have substantially decreased, reflecting a better compliance by fishers with the rules governing the 7.23 million Km2 of the targeted cooperation area.

Key measures contributing to reducing regional IUU fishing incidents include an increase in the number of licenses issued to countries fishing on high seas and the provision of safety and surveillance materials and equipment, such as portable GPS devices, onboard recording equipment, waterproof cameras or computer equipment. This has resulted in a significant improvement in regional fisheries inspections, enhancing monitoring and control capabilities, as previously reported here.

The fight against IUU fishing, funded by ECOFISH, is internationally recognized

Funding these measures by the EU through ECOFISH program enables the Southwestern Indian Ocean region to overcome obstacles in protecting valuable fisheries resources in the area, whose value is estimated at 50 billion euros.

This way, the efforts of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) in combating IUU fishing have been recognized by the International Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance Network (IMCS). The organization has awarded the IOC for its significant contribution to the fight against illegal fishing worldwide, in a ceremony held in Canada. This distinction confirms the usefulness and relevance of the regional system, which operates thanks to the commitment of the nine participating states, who pool their resources and intelligence, and also thanks to EU funding through ECOFISH.

The collective approach to combating illegal fishing is essential since fishing in the southwestern Indian Ocean accounts for 20% of global tuna catches. Hence the importance of adopting good governance principles to achieve effective management that contributes to economic growth, food security, and the livelihoods of the region.

Alliance to address biodiversity and climate change challenges

In line with this, a memorandum of understanding was recently signed in Mauritius between the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) as part of their mutual commitment to preserving fisheries resources sustainability in the Southwestern Indian Ocean.

This new collaborative milestone, sponsored by ECOFISH, aims to provide the region with tools and knowledge to address current challenges related to preserving biodiversity and adapting to climate change. EFCA will provide specialized training, risk analysis methodologies, and catch traceability systems to the countries in the region, enabling them to better monitor and control fishing activities.

The beneficiaries of this initiative are Comoros, Reunion (France), Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, and Tanzania.