By Mansour Ndour, Regional Coordinator (West Africa) of the FiTI International Secretariat and Will May Regional Coordinator (Western Indian Ocean) of the FiTI International Secretariat
They could hardly be more different. One is a sprawling Islamic desert country in West Africa and the other a scattering of tiny creole islands in the Indian Ocean. But despite contrasting cultures and histories – not to mention the nearly 8,000km separating them – Mauritania and the Seychelles share a unifying characteristic: a common understanding of the critical importance of transparency in marine fisheries.
In the Seychelles, a small island developing state with a land mass of just 455km2 yet an Exclusive Economic Zone nearly the size of France and Turkey combined (1,374,000 km2), the fisheries sector is the second most important pillar of the economy. The nation is well known as a major player in the global tuna industry, with Port Victoria one of the busiest industrial fishing ports in the Western Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, Mauritania is renowned for its abundant and diverse fisheries resources. Over 600 fish species found in its rich waters have been inventoried, of which more than 200 can be exploited for commercial means, and the value of fisheries exports from Mauritania is now estimated at over $1 billion per year.
In both countries, the importance of marine fisheries for fulfilling the basic needs of their peoples, whether these relate to jobs, trade, foreign exchange, food security or culture, cannot be underestimated. But in order to achieve sustainable fisheries, public availability of information is critical. Without transparency, governments cannot function to their potential. Transparency also deepens understanding of the important nature of the fisheries sector, as well as the various challenges that exist within it.
It is on this basis that the Seychelles andMauritania submitted their first ever reports to the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), on 16 April and 18 May respectively.
The FiTI is a global multi-stakeholder partnership (in line with SDG #17) seeking to increase transparency and participation in fisheries in order to support the sector’s long-term contribution to both national economies and the well-being of citizens and businesses that depend on a healthy marine environment. At the initiative’s heart lies the FiTI Standard, the only internationally recognised framework defining what fisheries information should be published online by governments.
The purpose of a FiTI Report is threefold: to summarise key status information on a country’s fisheries sector; to assess its level of compliance against the FiTI Standard; and to provide national authorities recommendations on how the publication of information can be further improved.
The two FiTI Reports therefore provide crucial insights into the status of their countries’ marine fisheries sectors, based on thorough assessments of what national fisheries information is available in the first place, and whether this information is easily accessible and seen as complete. This has not only established a comprehensive and credible foundation for the formulation of sustainable policies, but also provides the opportunity for other actors to participate and exercise oversight.
The reports have also resulted in a range of previously unpublished information being made publicly available by national authorities for the very first time. This information includes, inter alia:
|Seychelles (for calendar year 2019)||Mauritania (for calendar year 2018)|
|• The contracts of two foreign fishing access agreements signed with the Government of Mauritius|
• A summary of the status of fish stocks in Seychelles
• The names of the 25 license holders for Seychelles’ sea cucumber fishery
• Information on the various types of fisheries subsidies available to Seychelles’ small-scale fisheries, including fuel subsidies
|• The contracts of Mauritanian fishing agreements that were active in 2018, including with Japan Tuna Fisheries Coopérative Association, Senegal, and Poly-HonDone Pelagic Fishery Co.|
• A list of 452 large-scale fishing vessels licensed to fish in Mauritanian waters
• Large-scale vessel payments
• The total numbers of small-scale vessels (6,809) and small-scale fishers (24,984) operating in Mauritania
Mauritania initiated the FiTI in 2015 and the Seychelles has been the host to the FiTI International Secretariat since 2019. Both countries were also among the trailblazers who launched the process that led to the drafting of the FiTI Standard. Seeing their first FiTI Reports now published is therefore a huge milestone, marking an important first step towards enhancing the public availability of credible fisheries information worldwide.
The publication of these two reports amid a global pandemic is a remarkable achievement. However, the process of how the two FiTI Reports were created is even more noteworthy. Both came to fruition through the collective efforts of a National Multi-Stakeholder Group (NSMG), composed of equal numbers of representatives from government, the business sector and civil society. The Seychelles’ National MSG is made up of 12 members, while the Mauritanian National MSG has 15. Not only did each group formulate the recommendations found in their country’s respective FiTI reports, but they also vetted its contents to ensure each report is seen as credible and trustworthy.
With two African nations leading the global movement towards transparency in fisheries management, the road beckons for others to follow. The FiTI strives to create a level playing field for transparency in marine fisheries, and we call upon all relevant stakeholders to demand that their governments pursue the examples set by the Seychelles and Mauritania so we can make the public availability of credible information on marine fisheries the global norm, and no longer a notable exception.
This is a guest blog and may not necessarily represent the views of other RISE UP network members or the RISE UP as a whole. It is only through open dialogue and a diversity of ideas that we will arrive at the solutions necessary to restore Ocean health.