Shared governance and growth for our ocean

Saturday September 25 2021
Vêlayoudom Marimoutou and Julien Million.

Secretary General of the Indian Ocean Commission, Prof. Vêlayoudom Marimoutou, and Julien Million, Senior Fisheries Specialist, World Bank. PHOTOS | COURTESY


Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) and the World Bank, SwioFish Programme


For thousands of years, all you had to do to make a living from the sea was to throw a hook in the water, cast a net, or set a trap. Fishing has always been one of the ways to feed humanity without worrying about the sustainability of the resource, as it regenerated itself effortlessly.

Those are the old days.

With the advent of predatory and sometimes illegal practices, growing and sometimes frenetic demand, and the deterioration of ocean ecosystems exacerbated by climate change, fishing is no longer the same.

What can be done about it? One answer can be summed up in the adage "preparation is half of the battle", meaning that governing is all about anticipation. Ocean governance is needed to ensure the long-term future of fisheries and fishermen while maintaining ecosystems and the health of the oceans.


Overfishing and economic losses

For the neophyte, and sometimes even for the decision-maker, improving fisheries governance in the Southwest Indian Ocean may seem secondary. This is not the case! The figures give an idea: in our area, 33% of fisheries resources are exploited at a biologically unsustainable level.

In financial terms, these levels of exploitation generate considerable economic losses! Added to this is the ecological and economic cost of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (IUU fishing), which represents an estimated loss of 1 billion dollars per year in added value.

At a time when the island and coastal states of the South-West Indian Ocean are making the blue economy a priority, the challenges of a sector that directly supports millions of our fellow citizens must be addressed. And these challenges are multiple: governance, management, transparency, standards, and controls...

An issue of development

It is therefore both important and urgent to act because it is a question of ecological balance, the sustainability of sectors and related resources, jobs, subsistence, food security and growth. In a word, it is a question of development.

It is in this sense that the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) and the World Bank have been committed since 2015 through the regional SWIOFish programme. Because the fisheries sector cuts across many other areas of our societies and economies, it was important to address the challenges of fisheries governance and resource management at the regional level.

The SWIOFish 1 project, worth 5 million dollars, thus aimed to support the SWIOFC and its 12 member countries in strengthening coordination and regional cooperation for the management and development of fisheries in the Southwest Indian Ocean.

Strengthened regional governance

Over the past six years, the targeted results have been achieved overall, despite the slowdown in activities imposed by the pandemic:

  • The guidelines for minimum terms and conditions regulating access for foreign fisheries have been approved by all members of the SWIOFC.
  • The number of bilateral and multilateral agreements and protocols far exceeded the expected results, i.e. a total of 24 agreements and protocols against 6 targeted.
  • 875 direct beneficiaries of the project of which 22% are women.
  • Innovative fisheries monitoring and regulation measures were promoted and supported, such as the FiTI Standard for transparency in the fisheries sector (accessibility and availability of data, monitoring, etc.).
  • Collaboration with regional fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance initiatives has been carried out, notably with the IOC Regional Fisheries Monitoring Plan supported by the European Union.
  • The regional fisheries observation programme supported by SWIOFish 1 has achieved international recognition by winning the first prize at the International Conference on Fisheries Observation and Monitoring in Vigo (Spain) in 2018.  

In addition, support to SWIOFC has enabled several member countries to submit joint proposals for resolutions to IOTC, in addition to seeking a common position on major tuna species in the ongoing quota negotiations in the Technical Committee for Allocation Criteria.

More generally, the support provided to the SWIOFC throughout the project has strengthened the structure, deepened the collaboration of the parties and enabled fisheries managers, technicians, and decision-makers to meet regularly with the aim of improving regional fisheries governance.

Foundation for a sustainable ocean

These governance actions provide an indispensable foundation for the development of the sector and for the management of fisheries in a sustainable, accountable, and transparent manner. This is more important as fisheries resources are by nature shared resources.

This action by the World Bank, the SWIOFC and the IOC therefore contributes to the consolidation of one of the socio-economic pillars of the region, considering the other initiatives underway.

The sustainability of the SWIOFC, and of a financial mechanism supporting it, is a political and strategic priority for the governance and good management of the regional fisheries sector. Discussions have progressed but a firm agreement must be reached to establish the governance of the sector.

It is this collective, synergistic approach that will enable our States and communities to give substance to Sustainable Development Goal 14 for a sustainably managed ocean.

Prof. Vêlayoudom Marimoutou is the Secretary General of the Indian Ocean Commission; Julien Million is the Senior Fisheries Specialist, World Bank.


Tanzania: Engage communities to get positive benefits

With support from the World Bank, the Tanzanian government created local beach management units to improve local fisheries management.

The project’s goal was to stop detrimental fishing practices, such as using poison or dynamite, by increasing community involvement in surveillance and management of the fisheries. The local beach management unit members were not deputized or given legal powers but identified suspects to enforcement agencies.

According to local fishery managers, these efforts have reduced illegal fishing practices such as using poison and dynamite. For instance, in Tanga, incidences of blast fishing decreased from 5907 in 2016 to 1176 in 2018. During the same period, incidents in Lindi fell from 9130 to only 506.

Moreover, these actions toward fishermen communities enhance the monitoring of the sector and increased government revenue from licensed fishers and vessels (from 35 517 TSH’000 in 2015 and to 256 080 TSH’000 in 2018).

Researchers posit that this may be attributable to fisherfolk learning from each other through the local beach management unit process. Thus, coordination with local communities can simultaneously improve enforcement and resource outcomes

The beach management units’ system is efficient and in the process of becoming permanent in Tanzania. A real success story that inspires neighboring States. Mozambique has also replicated this measure. As for Kenya, it is working on its implementation.


Kenya: A critical coordinating role in regulating foreign fisheries access

The Southwest Indian Ocean region produces more than US$2 billion worth of tuna. To protect the value chain, countries have established rules for common access to foreign fisheries for tuna and tuna-like species.

These measures, known as the MTC Guidelines (Minimum Termes & Conditions), will help monitor fishing activities, improve their management, and help countries reap sustainable economic benefits.

Members of the SWIOFC adopted MTC Guidelines in 2019. These guidelines were developed under the aegis of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), SWIOFC, and two IOC’s fisheries programme, namely the EU-Funded SmartFish programme and the World Bank SWIOFish1 project.

Kenya chairs the MTC Task Force (MTC TF), in the person of Benedict Kiilu, which aims to implement the guidelines. This is an important role in coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the MTC Guidelines.

By taking the lead in the Task Force, Kenya is indicating its commitment to sustainable fisheries in the region and, more broadly, to the development of the blue economy as demonstrated at the 2018 Nairobi Summit.

A Consultancy is presently underway and reaching completion by the end of September 2021.

This consultancy on “Assessment of and support for the implementation of the Minimum Terms and Conditions (MTC) Guidelines by SWIOFC members” will indicate the way forward for the MTCTF chair to  avail of the recommendations of  the comprehensive baseline study on the implementation of the MTC Guidelines, a M&E mechanism to monitor the implementation of the guidelines and other related activities and recommendations for horizontal harmonization of foreign fishing licensing in the SWIOFC region to implement MCS related Articles of the MTC Guidelines.



World Bank