Stakeholders discuss management of tuna fishing in the region |11 April 2023
Fisheries ministers and other senior representatives from governments and private sectors of the South Western Indian Ocean region met last Thursday to discuss the management of tuna fishing in the region.
Apart from our country, the meeting saw the participation of purse seiner fishing coastal countries Kenya, Comoros and Tanzania, including Zanzibar.
The aim was to emphasise the need for closer corporation and collaboration in matters to put forward at the next Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) meeting, especially with regard to the 72-day ban on fish aggregating devices (FADs) each year.
It was the second meeting to be held after the first which took place on May 5 last year with the participation of Comoros, Mauritius and Madagascar.
In his opening address, in the presence of the Minister for Value Economy and Fisheries of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, Suleiman Makame and the principal secretary of the state department for the Blue Economy and Fisheries of the Republic of Kenya, Betsy Njadi and other senior representatives of the region, the Seychelles Minister for Fisheries and the Blue Economy, Designated Minister Jean Francois Ferrari, said that given that the western Indian Ocean region is home to some of the richest tuna fisheries, it is imperatively important that all countries work together in common interest to safeguard and to ensure the sustainable development of the sector for the benefit of all people in the region.
During the Sixth Special Session of the IOTC meeting from February 3-5, 2023, held in Mombasa, Kenya, a proposal calling for a 72-day ban on FADs each year was approved through secret ballot voting. The ban is expected to take effect between July 1 and September 11, 2024. Seychelles voted against the adopted proposal citing that the decision made was not based on scientific research but was rather influenced by commercial interest.
Based on that decision, Designated Minister Ferrari said that while there is common recognition that IOTC plays a crucial role in conservation and management of tuna fisheries in our ocean, it is imperative that countries forming part of the commission engage more with one another to defend and promote common interests in a fair and equitable manner as respective economies and jobs are at stake.
“Through our closer corporation, we can strengthen our collective bargaining power for attaining our fair and equal participation in the tuna fisheries of the Indian Ocean, and for achieving our development aspiration in this sector. We are however always mindful that there is a commercial dividing force working to separate and weaken us, as we have experienced at the recent special session of the Commission in Mombasa last February,” said Minister Ferrari, who noted that IOTC is being polarised, and is being driven as a West versus East divide, a purse seiner versus every other gears, in a brute force manner of the majority including the lack of consultation, and the efforts to finding consensus which seems to no longer prevail.
Designated Minister Ferrari stated that while our country recognises the dangers of purse seine FADs fishery, it is also wise to mention that every other fishing methods also have an impact on the fishery ecosystem.
He added that the decision regarding fishing matters should be over and above the imperatives of science and that the rule of fairness and equity be applied always in fisheries management decisions.
“From recent publications based on available data from the IOTC repository, it shows that 98.8 percent of yellowfin tuna caught in the pole and line fishery are juvenile. This means, only 1.2 percent of fish caught from this fishery are mature fish, compared to 77.8 percent of juvenile from the purse seine FADs fishery. However, one other difficulty faced by the Commission is the non-reporting of data from some countries and other gears, which creates data gaps, and increases the uncertainty in stock assessments,” said Minister Ferrari who noted that large scaled driftnets prohibited by the Commission since 2017 are still being used in the IOTC area of competency.
Designated Minister Ferrari said that while over the years the industry agreed on gradual reductions of FADs down to 300 per vessel, including a reduction of supply vessels supporting the purse seine fishery, among other related measures to ensure sustainability of the tuna resources, other fishing gears in other fishing jurisdictions have gone unchecked.
“By collaborating, we can find solutions to these challenges and ensure the long-term sustainability of our fisheries and the wellbeing of our communities. For those of us in the South West Indian Ocean who are just at the start of the development of our fishing industry, let us agree that we will work together and collaborate for the good of all our countries and people. Going it alone, faced with so many common challenges, will take us nowhere,” said Designated Minister Ferrari who noted the sustainable management of tuna resources in the Indian Ocean remains a collective responsibility of all members of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.
Minister Makame of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, Tanzania, said that given that the country has only one purse seiner vessel and is in the process of inviting others to venture in that line of fishing, the IOTC’s 72-day ban on fish aggregating devices is a subject of discussion to see whether it is viable and beneficiary for the communities.
He noted that the issue must be resolved through science and if science does allow for FADs purse seiner fishing, there should not be any problem.
“We in Tanzania, have to measure the pros and cons of this and then after having that comparative analysis, we can come to a conclusion. For the time being we have started and we hope we can continue doing this,” said Minister Makame, who noted that his country supports our country’s stance that the IOTC ban should have been based on scientific facts.
PS Njadi from Kenya also shared the same idea that fishing of ocean resources in the region should be backed by science or else the communities will be misled and justice will not prevail.
“This is very critical and we need to look at risk factors from a socio, economic and environmental perspective. So these are things that should be backed by science and facts,” PS Njadi said.
Text & photos by Patrick Joubert