East Africa: Illegal Fishing in Western Indian Ocean ‘Alarming’

Date: July 21, 2017

Source: allAfrica
Author: Zephania Ubwani

Illegal fishing is still rampant in the western Indian Ocean coast, occasioning a $ 400 million loss per year in landings or nearly $1 billion in processed products.

Despite concerted efforts by the shoreline countries, including Tanzania, the rate at which unregulated fisheries is executed continues to alarm policy makers and development agencies.

“Today, one out of every five fish is caught illegally in the western Indian Ocean region,” the latest release of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report states.

The report was released on Monday ahead of this week’s meeting convened in Madagascar to take stock of a strategic plan launched 10 years ago to combat the crime. The Regional Fisheries Monitoring Plan (PRSP) was created in 2007 by the Indian Ocean Commission, an intergovernmental body formed in the 1980s, as a tool to address the problem.

However, as fisheries and maritime resources experts converged in Antananarivo from Tuesday, the situation appears to have worsened.

“The plan was to be our only tool to fight illegal fishing. But it has not functioned efficiently and we need to strengthen it by giving every necessary support and renewing its mandate,” said Sunil Sweenarain, a fisheries economist attached to the programme. During the past decade, PRSP surveillance zone in the ocean expanded to 6.4 million square kilometres from 5.5 million km square in eight nations’ coasts.

Besides Tanzania, other countries are the Comoros, France/La Reunion, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Seychelles.

 During the 49 joint patrols carried out with the fishery experts from the eight participating countries, 12 vessels were seized fishing illegally while 120 offences were recorded. At the same time, 670 boats were monitored on the regional Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and 410 satellite images shared.

“The success of our plan (PRSP) rests with pooling resources and efforts to plan and coordinate joint missions, maritime and air patrols,” added Mr Jude Talma, the regional coordinator of the plan.

The programme to fight illegal fishing is funded by the European Union (EU) and since last year by the World Bank through a regional component called SwioFISH1.

Hundreds of the fishery and marine resources experts are attending the meeting in the Madagascar capital. It will climax today.

The experts are revisiting the efficient and effective ways of combating illegal fishing in the western rim of the Indian Ocean.

Among the measures envisaged are to strengthen intelligence gathering and exchange of information, joint operations and mobilisation of funds to sustain the exercise.

“The basis of all monitoring, control and fisheries surveillance system is the exchange of information. Unshared information has no value”, the report obtained by The Citizen said.

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