In Madagascar, public authorities, fishers, and civil society organisations are working towards improving fisheries transparency and governance. Together, they want to ensure sustainable and fair management of stocks, and enhance the value of a sector that represents between five and seven percent of the country’s GDP, on which hundreds of thousands of small-scale fishers depend for food.
In December 2022, Madagascar became the world’s third official candidate country for the FiTI (Fisheries Transparency Initiative), after Mauritania and the Seychelles. Mrs. Ranjaliva Vero Ramananihanitramalala, National Secretary of the FiTI, told us why this initiative is crucial for small-scale fishers, and economic progress in Madagascar.
What is FiTI?
The FiTI (Fisheries Transparency Initiative) is an international standard that ensures that all information about marine fisheries is transparent and publicly available. For example: How many boats have the right to fish in our ocean? What are the tenure laws and decrees that govern marine fisheries in Madagascar? What are the royalties paid to the state under each fishing agreement? How does the state manage fishing revenues?
One of the benefits of the FiTI for Madagascar is that it provides international investors the necessary information and confidence that allows them to identify investment issues and potential, and knowledge about how the state is managing the royalties they pay. This is important for them, and it’s important that they know why the state demands this percentage. The royalties deposited in Madagascar’s treasury are allocated as needed, and the Ministry [of Fisheries and the Blue Economy] is keen to ensure that a portion is dedicated to improving fisheries governance, with direct benefits for coastal communities.
Why is state support for small-scale fishers essential?
Small-scale fishers are estimated to be able to fish at sea for an average of 120 to 160 days per year, given weather conditions such as the rainy season, the winds, and also the cyclones and storms that are intensifying with climate change. At present, the income from these fishing days does not cover fishers’ basic needs, nor ensures they have enough autonomy and resilience. Still, small-scale fishing represents between 60-70 percent of the total annual value of Madagascar’s marine fisheries production! We must ensure that this value has an impact on the lives of small-scale fishers.
In what way does transparency contribute to this?
Transparency is the sine qua non for fair and sustainable management of our fisheries.
What are the catch levels? For what income? With what management measures? What are the benefits for local communities? If everything is clear and transparent, this will enable us to be accountable to the small-scale fishers, who are at the very start of the chain, fetching fish products from the sea that end up on our tables.
Transparency must ensure that small-scale fishers receive a fair return for their production effort. It should help to make up for an injustice. Currently, small-scale fishers are concerned that they are selling their products at very low prices. Madagascar wants to focus on building infrastructure for fishers such as market sheds, training centres and seafood processing centres, so that fishers can add more value, diversify their activities and supplement their income from the days they spend fishing at sea.
However, the delivery of this support must be transparent, and guarantee the state’s accountability to Malagasy fishers and to the fishing companies paying royalties.
How does transparency of information also lead to more sustainable fishing?
We do not have detailed data on all fish stocks. But the Ministry conducts the necessary assessments to estimate the sustainable catch quantities and to establish fishing agreements based on these quantities. This data, because it is established and shared in a transparent way, enable good decision-making. Last July, the Ministry was able to sign a two-year agreement with Japan Tuna because we know that 50,000 tonnes of tuna per year pass through Madagascar’s waters during their migration. As a result, Madagascar was reasonably able to grant Japan Tuna 1,250 tonnes of tuna fishing rights over a three-month season per year.
There is also the major issue of overfishing and IUU [Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated] fishing, which is causing depleting marine life in Madagascar, as in many other places in the world. The state is taking action to combat IUU fishing, and small-scale fisher associations are participating in the surveillance effort. Transparency of information about fines plays an important role in encouraging the sanctioning of infractions, which allows for the monitoring of the payment of fines to Madagascar’s Treasury and how they are used, and for the protection of stocks from the impacts of IUU fishing.
Transparency efforts also have a positive impact on the safety of fishers…
Engaging in FiTI should ensure transparency of all official national documents related to marine fisheries. This includes, for example, texts that prohibit fishing and consumption of species that can cause serious, and often fatal, poisoning at certain times of the year. Ensuring that everyone, including small-scale fishers — who may find it difficult to read them and who live far from communication channels — has access to information on these texts contributes to better public health security.
Safety at sea is also a constant concern for coastal communities. Every year, fishers are reported missing, and their bodies are often found several days later. In recent months, the Ministry has distributed safety-at-sea kits to small-scale fishers in all of Madagascar’s 14 coastal regions. The distribution was announced and carried out in a transparent manner, and that transparency of service also counts for a lot.
FiTI is a rigorous process. Madagascar is currently leading the way by committing to it…
Madagascar is the third country in the world to apply for the FiTI. Last July, during the United Nations Conference on the Oceans in Lisbon, our country was applauded in the plenary session when it announced its commitment to this transparency for better management of resources, with information systems that provide guarantees to investors, a fisheries monitoring system, sanitary controls, and a national multi-stakeholder group.
This group is part of the FiTI standards, and is at the heart of the transparency system. It includes four government representatives, four elected representatives from civil society, two elected representatives from industrial fisheries and two elected representatives from small-scale fisheries (the Comité de Gestion de la pêche aux Poulpes in Toliara and the FMMA cooperative in Mahajanga). Small-scale fishers are represented both as members of civil society and as part of the private sector.
The FiTI now needs to be better known in the country. At the official launch, we brought in the 14 Regional Directors of Fisheries and the Blue Economy to discuss all the benefits of this initiative. This past year, we have also increased the number of information sessions in the field, directly with small-scale fishers. We are making progress!