The Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) held its 11th session. Eleven out of its ten member counties attended the session, namely, Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, the United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen.
Since the establishment of the SWIOFC in 2005, this is the first time that, the member states hold their regular session virtually. The session was preceded on 3 August 2021 by the Regional Steering Committees for the Southwest Indian Ocean region fisheries projects linked to the SWIOFC, namely, the SWIOFish1 project funded by World Bank and the FAO EAF-Nansen Programme. The Commission acts a regional platform for the steering and collaboration with of fisheries projects. Several other projects and partners contributed to the meeting including European Union, the French Development Agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Nairobi Convention, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Southern African Development Community Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance Coordination Centre which is planned to be hosted with the SWIOFC Secretariat in Maputo, Mozambique.
These instruments are being used as guiding references so as to govern the access of foreign fisheries to the SWIOFC region
The opening remarks of the meeting were given by Ms. Najat Alfakih, from Yemen, the second Vice-Chair of the Commission, after the welcoming remarks by Mr. Vasco Schmidt, Secretary a.i of the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission. The official opening was done by Mr. Matthew Abang, on behalf of Dr Patrice Talla Takoukam, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa.
Ms. Najat Alfakih, speaking on behalf of Mr Emmanuel Bulayi, the SWIOFC chairperson, underlined the importance of greater cooperation and collaboration amongst member states as essential key to reap the social and economic benefits through the implementation of the Minimum Term Condition (MTC) at a regional level. Additionally, she referred to the significant progress made by SADC regarding to the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Centre (MCS). “Cooperation amongst the different regional MCS initiatives, which currently are largely dependent on funding contribution, would be critical to more effectively work together towards tackling the problem of IUU in the SWIOFC region,” said Ms. Alfakih.
Mr. Mathew Abang, speaking on behalf of the FAO Subregional Office for Southern Africa (SFS), recognized the significant progress achieved by the Commission since the last session regarding the programme of its work. He also, referred to the several important instruments which are being applied by the Commission in the SWIO region, namely, the Minimum Terms and Conditions for Access of Foreign Fisheries to the SWIOFC region; the voluntary guidelines for securing sustainable small-scale fisheries and the ecosystems approach to fisheries management (SSF Guidelines). “These instruments are being used as guiding references so as to govern the access of foreign fisheries to the SWIOFC region and to ensure the sustainable management and development of small-scale fisheries and more equitable contribution of the fisheries sectors to the livelihoods for coastal communities in the western Indian ocean region”, said Mr. Abang.
The Scientific Committee report of the SWIOFC was endorsed with included a proposal for the creation of a new Fisheries Socio-Economics Working Group of the SWIOFC. The Scientific Committee report, also included recommendation from the member states to promote research on fisheries for coastal invertebrates, focusing on a first phase on sea cucumber, octopus, mud crab, shrimp, to promote cooperation and active exchange of information among the member institutions involved in research and management of fisheries. .
The SWIOFC also approved the recommendations of its Working Party on Collaboration and Cooperation in Tuna Fisheries (WPCCTF) including proposed actions for the implementation of the Minimum Terms and Conditions (MTC) Guidelines for foreign fisheries access in the SWIOFC region at a regional level. The MTC Guidelines have been adopted by all Member Countries in February 2019. The Commission noted with satisfaction the progress on the implementation of the MTC guidelines. This guideline represents good practices in requirements for granting access to foreign fishing vessels, including fishing, supply and transport vessels. Properly implemented through legislation and procedures, their benefits, inter alia, include, for example, a guide to strengthening national standards for access to foreign fishing