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Sustainable Management of Africa's Small-Scale Fisheries to Benefit Whole Supply Chain

09 December 2014

AFRICA - Improving the management of Africa’s small-scale fisheries can deliver sustained benefits throughout the seafood supply chain, benefiting coastal communities while rebuilding dwindling fish stocks. This was the message of a landmark meeting in Zanzibar that brought together 65 delegates from 13 countries across east Africa and the western Indian Ocean.

The past decade has seen a proliferation of management efforts targeting small-scale fisheries in the western Indian Ocean. Many measures have focused on building local capacity for management of reef octopus (Octopus cyanea) and several fisheries have undergone pre-assessment against the MSC's Fisheries Standard.

Recent years have seen a growing interest in fisheries improvement projects (FIPs) for invertebrate fisheries across the region, including some octopus fisheries moving towards MSC certification.

Sharing regional successes

In Zanzibar’s historic capital Stone Town this week, a workshop hosted by the MSC and Blue Ventures with support from the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), attracted delegates from governments, NGOs, fishing communities, regional organisations and the seafood industry, representing countries across the region.

Tinah Martin, a fisheries scientist with Blue Ventures in Madagascar, commented: "We have worked closely with individual fisheries for some years and have achieved notable successes in local management. To be able to share these lessons with so many influential people in this setting is a great opportunity to build on what we’ve learned and to look at scaling up these efforts across the region."

WIOMSA’s Director of Outreach and Resource Mobilisation, Tim Andrew, added: "There are many commonalities between octopus fisheries in the western Indian Ocean and what works for one can quite conceivably work for others. By sharing experiences we will improve our understanding of what makes a successful project and can work together to provide the practical support and guidance that is necessary to improve the sustainability of octopus for all the countries involved.”

Towards better management

The three day programme included an overview of the status and importance of octopus fisheries to the food security and livelihoods of western Indian Ocean communities. Reflecting on practical experiences from as far afield as Seychelles and Senegal, participants considered the role of fisheries improvement projects (FIPs) in addressing the data and management capacity challenges that often hinder progress towards sustainable management in small-scale and developing world fisheries.

Collaborative efforts between NGOs, governments, funding bodies and supply chain stakeholders have been very effective in delivering targeted outcomes in some FIPs. Crucially, successful projects all shared strong leadership and an increasing number of FIPs use MSC pre-assessment to guide the development of action plans.

Martin Purves, the MSC’s southern Africa Programme Manager, said: “MSC certification and its associated market benefits should be accessible to any fishery that is able to demonstrate sustainable management. The MSC has developed a range of accessibility tools that can support FIP practitioners in moving fisheries towards more sustainable practices. By doing so we hope that more fisheries will be encouraged to ultimately seek MSC certification.”

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