By Mialy Andriamhefazafy, BV Environmental Policy Officer, Madagascar
This week has been a very exciting one in my role as BV’s Madagascar-based environmental policy officer. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from around the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions have been meeting here in Dar-es-Salaam, at a workshop organised by WWF Tanzania to discuss fisheries management in the western Indian Ocean. Our discussions are focusing on tuna fisheries, because of the high economic value of this fishery and concerns over its sustainability.
Tunas migrate between many coastal states in the western Indian Ocean, and the objective of the meeting has been to share fishery management experiences and lessons learned as well as determining a strategy for how CSOs can build up a united voice for advocacy to support national government efforts to improve fisheries management. The meeting began yesterday with presentations from Blue Ventures and other CSOs on our activities in fisheries management and advocacy efforts relating to tuna fisheries.
Over recent months we’ve been working with colleagues from the University of British Columbia to analyse the tuna fisheries agreements that have been signed between Madagascar and the foreign fleets that are licensed to target Madagascar’s tuna resources. As one of the world’s poorest countries, Madagascar doesn’t have its own domestic fleet, so international law requires us to sign these access agreements with distant water fleets (DWFs). Our work with UBC is focusing on understanding the nature of these access agreements, with a view to developing recommendations to improve the sustainability and equity of the contracts that Madagascar signs with DWFs. And because it has the largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of any country within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the lessons we can draw from Madagascar serve as a crucial case study for other countries in the region.
We’ve made encouraging progress so far in building working collaborations with Madagascar fishery authorities, and these experiences in particular have attracted the interest of many of the other CSOs at the meeting, since building relationships with fisheries administrations has proved a major hurdle for CSOs in many coastal African countries. Private sector representatives have also presented their activities and highlighted some of the challenges that they are facing within the tuna industry. The use of rights-based management for fisheries has been a key element of discussions – this basically means allocating the right to fish to (for example) a particular individual for a specific time, geographic zone and species. Under a rights-based management system, those individuals or groups entitled to have access to the fishery are said to have use rights; that is, the right to use the fishery resources; while others do not have the right to “use” the fishery.
Meetings continue today, as we discus the role of CSOs in fisheries management at regional and national levels. We’re also trying to establish a strategy for how CSOs can make sure their voices are heard in fisheries reform, in particular in improving the integration of CSO expertise and recommendations within national and regional fishery policies. It’s been a fascinating experience getting to know the activities of other CSOs in fisheries advocacy and reform – we’re hoping that the partnerships we build here in Dar with organisations from all over the IndoPacific will serve to strengthen and support the voice of civil society in improving the sustainability of fisheries throughout this unique region.