COMESA in collaboration with IGAD, EAC, SADC, IOC, Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA) and the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) have renewed their partnership of working together in implementing a programme on sustainable development of Fisheries commonly known as ECOFISH in the Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean Region.
The partnership, started three years ago after a 28 million Euros finance agreement was signed by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), on behalf of COMESA, EAC, IGAD and SADC, with the European Union (EU).
Over the years, the implementing partners have been steadily implementing the agreed programs amid the challenges brought about by COVID-19.
In view of this, COMESA Secretariat hosted the 3rd Steering Committee Meeting in Lusaka during which the teams could track the progress and performance of the program and make recommendations for implementation. Apart from COMESA Secretariat, fish experts from IGAD, EAC, SADC, IOC, LTA and LVFO participated in the meeting which was held both physically and virtually.
Assistant Secretary General for Programs Dr Kipyego Cheluget officially opened the meeting and urged the team to make recommendations that will help the fish and fish industry sector to grow and be sustainable. He pointed out that majority of fisheries value chain actors are small-scale and live primarily in coastal and inland lake areas in the region.
He lamented that despite the significant importance of fisheries as a sector especially the small scale and the potential to contribute significantly to global poverty alleviation, many small-scale fisheries in the EA, SA and IO region are not in a good state, and people dependent on these remain impoverished and most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
He added that, the development of the blue economy may also have detrimental consequences on small-scale fisheries that have to compete with other sectors for the use of coastal areas, inland lakes and rivers. The ECOFISH program is designed to create awareness and tackle some of these challenges.
The meeting was informed that COMESA supports its Member States to implement their Blue Economy Strategy in such a way that it does not affect the lives and livelihoods of small-scale fisheries.
“We are therefore optimistic that the present Steering Committee meeting will guide ECOFISH program to have special attention to small-scale fisheries and create an understanding of the concept of sustainable development and its implications to the sustainable management of the inland and marine fisheries in EA-SA and the Indian Ocean region,” Dr Cheluget said.
The meeting commended the development of the blue economy satellite account which was recently validated that it would play major role in complementing efforts in capturing the required data. Capturing of the data on ecosystem and fisheries habitat is expected to support evidence-based policymaking and monitoring of the marine as well as inland fisheries of the EA-SA-IO region.
COMESA, EAC, IOC, IGAD, SADC, LTA and LVFO are also collaborating in harmonizing of Monitoring Control Surveillance which is expected to strengthen capacities in the sustainable development of the fisheries resources.
Speaking from Mauritius, Head of Cooperation at the EU to the Republic of Mauritius and the Republic of Seychelles, Mr Milko Van Gool reiterated the EU’s support for both inland and marine sustainable fisheries in the Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region.
He mentioned that recently during a regional Indo-Pacific forum, ECOFISH was yet again cited for its contribution to fighting illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean region. Therefore, expectations were high on this programme and the management team needed to deliver and show results.
IOC Secretary General Prof. Vêlayoudom Marimoutou urged the team to focus on successes recorded so far and make recommendations on how best to implement the remaining activities for the benefit of the region and partners.