Major alliance formed to help curb illegal fishing


20-December-2012

The partnership, FISH-i Africa, launched by the Stop Illegal Fishing working group of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), held its kick-off meeting last week at the Coral Strand Hotel, Beau Vallon.
 
With technical and financial support from the Pew Environment Group, the project will also involve cooperation with regional bodies such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) through its SmartFish programme on illegal fishing.

FISH-i Africa intends to build cooperation, information-sharing and analytical systems between the key southeast African coastal states of Comoros, Kenya, Mozambique, Seychelles and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The partner countries have committed to establish a platform for real-time sharing of sometimes sensitive data on vessels, their movements, catch and owners, aimed at enabling nations to take timely action against suspected illegal operators.

Seychelles’ Minister for Natural Resources and Industry Peter Sinon, who opened the project’s inaugural meeting of fisheries officials and agencies, said: “Africa sits in the middle of very important and fragile oceans. We can no longer tolerate illegal fishing. We have to ensure this finite resource is passed on to future generations, and we have the jurisdiction to act now.”

As a ‘live’ example of the new engagement, Minister Sinon said Seychelles was actively sharing information with Mozambique in the case of the Spanish-owned tuna vessel Txori Argi, which was fined 1.2 million euros earlier this year by a Maputo court for allegedly fishing without a license in Mozambique’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 

Other possible areas of cooperation include sharing of legal and analytical expertise to pursue fishery and related crimes such as fraud, tax evasion and money-laundering.

Delegates stressed the need for such expertise in tracing the real owners of some fishing vessels, often obscured by complex corporate structures registered in distant third-party countries.

FISH-i will also bring ever-more accessible technology to assist in this work.
Alejandro Anganuzzi, the IOTC’s secretary, attending the opening session, expressed strong support for the pilot project.
 
“We have a huge expanse of ocean to police, stretching from Tasmania in the south, to the Northern Gulf and the Bay of Bengal in the East. The information-sharing and experiences gleaned from this project will be of great use and interest to all IOTC members,” he said.

Stop Illegal Fishing spokesman Mark Ssemakula stated that “In 2010, 33 African States at the Conference of African Ministers, Fisheries and Aquaculture (Camfa) agreed on the need for urgent actions to deter and eradicate IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing.

“FISH-i Africa brings a practical response to these recommendations. It provides a smart system for countries to work together to target their actions at those destroying our resources and not playing by the rules we set.”

The project to set up the FISH-i system will work for approximately 12 months, but, if successful, it is hoped the model can be extended and even replicated in other coastal African regions.

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