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SWIOFC urged to effectively respond to the fisheries development

The South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) need to effectively respond to the aspirations and needs of the coastal States of the region, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

These coastal states appreciate the work done by SWIOFC but have increased expectations of what it should do and how it should be structured in the future, delegates attending the 9th SWIOFC session in South Africa late last year agreed.

About 65mn people live within the coastline across the entire Western Indian Ocean Region. Cultures in this fascinating and diverse region have in common that their people are dependent on fishing and other uses of marine resources.

The Acting Head of Fisheries of South Africa, Motseki Hlatshwayo, officially opened the 9th session on behalf of the Minister of Marine Resources and Fisheries of South Africa, Senzeni Zokwana.

Motseki Hlatshwayo reiterated that the Government of South Africa is engaged to strengthen ties of regional collaboration in the fisheries sector at the level of the South West Indian Ocean region.

“We need to improve regional efforts in dealing with fisheries scientific research, resource management and compliance with best national and international instruments so as conserve fish resources for future generations,” said Hlatshwayo.

The Scientific Committee report presented by SWIOFC Technical Secretary, Pedro Barros, during the session, drew the attention of the Commission to the relatively high proportion of fish stocks classified as overexploited (40 per cent) in the SWIOFC region, while cautioning against interpreting these results as the overall proportions of overexploited stocks in the countries or in the region. The initiatives already taken by the Scientific Committee to develop the capacity of scientists and managers on fish stock assessment and fisheries management and, standardise procedures and organise data and information are valuable and important to the SWIOFC region.

In comparative terms, the SWIOFC region is in an unfavourable situation relative to the rest of the world, which means that there is still a significant part of the fish populations that need to be better managed. In this context, the report of Scientific Committee recommended that SWIOFC members should make an effort to improve the systems and procedures for management of data from the port and at-sea sampling, to facilitate quality control and availability of data for analyses.

Mozambique chairs the Technical Group that coordinates the development of Guidelines on the Minimum Terms and Conditions for foreign fishing access to SWIOFC region. During the Ninth Session of the SWIOFC, 9 out of 10 members present approved the guidelines for adoption. It is expected that the guidelines will be adopted with a minor amendment in 2019. This would be an important milestone to empower the coastal states to engage effectively with Distant Water Fishing Nations to secure effective, coherent and coordinated management of shared fish stocks, reduce the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance costs, and increase equity in benefit sharing.

The PSMA are an important agreement to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and it is the first binding international agreement to specifically target illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The effective implementation of the PSMA in the SWIO region would ultimately contribute to the long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources and marine ecosystems.