E€OFISH reactivates regional fisheries surveillance
Eight island and coastal States of the Western Indian Ocean approved the guidelines for relaunching the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Plan (RFSP). This action is all the more important since illegal fishing results in an annual loss of one billion dollars in potential fishery-derived products in the region, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The members of the RFSP Regional Coordination Unit (RCU) – namely Comoros, France/Réunion, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles and Tanzania – again decided to pool their resources for an optimized use of maritime and air surveillance assets and to leverage new technologies in the fight against illegal fishing. The European Union (EU) provides substantial support to this cooperation which dates back to 2007, but was put on hold from 2018. “Our partnership helped strengthen the surveillance of the 6 million km² of sea in our region through better coordination of maritime and air patrols, stronger governance and smoother communication”, says Vêlayoudom Marimoutou, Secretary General of the Indian Ocean Commission.
The subjects broached included the capitalization and sustainability of achievements. The discussions and resolutions of the RCU members also focused on the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of the actions against illegal fishing. One of the approaches envisaged involves identifying the region’s main fishing areas where surveillance operations should be more stringent. Better use of new technologies, such as satellite images and drones, was also addressed, as well as more frequent exchanges and training of inspectors and observers at sea.
The RFSP has made it possible to carry out 49 joint patrols spanning 1,228 days in the seas of the Western Indian Ocean between 2007 and 2017. Through the RFSP, 12 illegally fishing vessels were seized and 120 infringements recorded. The regional Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) set up under this initiative also contributed to the surveillance of 670 vessels and helped share 410 satellite images.
The reactivation of the RFSP is part of the activities of E€OFISH. Funded and promoted by the EU, this Programme aims to make sustainable fishing an economic lever for the region of East Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean. To this effect, E€OFISH brings together the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), the Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA), the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC).