Civil Society in East Africa and Indian Ocean Concerned About Tuna Fishing

Nature Seychelles' Island Coordinator, Eric Blais delivering his presentation during the 7th SWIOTUNA session in Maputo.

There has been quite some chatter recently focusing on the tuna fishing industry in the Seychelles. While the Seychelles Fishing Authority is reportedly keeping an eye on yellowfin tuna stocks with the aim achieving a 15 percent reduction in fishing allowance, members of the Seychelles Fishing Boat Owners Association (FBOA) and the Federation of Artisanal Fisheries are embittered at being left out of high level discussions on the future of the Seychelles fishing industry.

The chatter in the region on the very same subject has, in fact, been going on for some time. Nature Seychelles’ Island Coordinator, Mr. Eric Blais recently returned from the seventh session of the regional consultative civil society group, South-West Indian Ocean Tuna (SWIOTUNA) held in Maputo, Mozambique. The meeting held between 14th and 15th December 2016 addressed tuna fishing, in the Western Indian Ocean region as a whole.

SWIOTUNA is a regional platform in the South West Indian Ocean region that was set up with the aim of addressing the tuna and other marine fisheries issues, by strengthening the coordination and collaboration of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the private sector in sustainable natural resource management and development, thereby benefitting local communities as well as the state.

Countries represented on this platform are Seychelles, Mauritius, La Reunion, Madagascar, Comoros, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.

Members are all concerned about the status of tuna fishing in the region. Following this meeting, several recommendations and action points were agreed upon at national as well are regional levels.

 A fishing vessel in Seychelles waters (file photo)

Some of these included participating in relevant national and regional forums which address sustainability and equitable benefit sharing; lobbying and influencing the development and implementation of fisheries related policies; fundraising; creating a database of seafarers abandoned at sea; and countries with no established National Tuna Alliance should speed track the process.

In the region only Kenya and Madagascar have National Tuna Alliances which were supported by WWF.

“These regional meetings have been going on for some time because civil society organizations in these countries are very concerned about the tuna fishing industry,” Nature Seychelles’ Chief Executive, Dr Nirmal Shah explains. “ Nature Seychelles has been supporting this process for some time now. We brought together national operators in a meeting at our Centre a couple of years ago and all present were in favor of such a national alliance but we couldn’t find donor support to fund this initiative. We are still trying.”

During the meeting, Blais gave a presentation on Nature Seychelles’ work linked to the fishing industry. Nature Seychelles has held the post of Vice Secretary for SWIOTUNA for the past 2 years. Also represented from Seychelles at the meeting were the FBOA and the Apostles of the Sea.

“Seeing the red flag raised recently by the FBOA and the Federation of Artisanal Fisheries, we believe there is no better time for all civil society organisations working in this field to come together,” Shah says.

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