The Blue Economy: Civil Society Wants a Voice in Tuna Fisheries Management

Nature Seychelles’ Eric Blais recently returned from the 6th session of the CSO/Private sector forum on sustainable Tuna Fisheries management in the South West Indian Ocean held in Mombasa, Kenya. The meeting was hosted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Tuna Fisheries Alliance of Kenya (TuFAK). Such meetings have been held annually since 2010. This is the third such meeting attended by a Nature Seychelles representative.

The regional consultative forum meets with the aim of addressing the tuna and other marine fisheries issues, by strengthening the coordination and collaboration of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) including NGOs and the private sector in sustainable natural resource management and development, thereby benefitting local communities, the respective countries, and the region as a whole.

 Sharing in and out of the meeting rooms 

During such meetings, with the hope of influencing the management of tuna management in the region, participants share their experiences both challenges and successes, while working in the fisheries industry in their respective countries. There were 32 participants present in the recent meeting, from Seychelles, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Kenya and Comoros.

In his presentation, Eric Blais outlined Nature Seychelles’ fisheries related work through the years highlighting recent successes such as the Reef Rescuers project which has seen over five thousand square meters of coral reefs planted so as to restore ecosystem services to fisheries and other sectors.

 Albert Napier (R) spoke of Nature Seychelles partnership with FBOA (Fishing Boat Owners Association) in his presentation

“They were very impressed with the work we have done of restoring the biological functioning of coral reefs and thereby increasing fish numbers,” Eric says. In partnership with the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), Nature Seychelles also recently piloted a project to improve on the design and functioning of protected areas such as Cousin Island Special Reserve so that they meet fisheries management goals.

During the meeting the members voted to constitute the forum as a registered NGO which they named SWIOTUNA, and following comprehensive review and amendments adopted the constitution which had been drafted following the 5th session last year in Zanzibar. That draft had been developed by a task force made up of representatives from WWF, KUWUKA-JDA, Mwambao, Nature Seychelles and Mauritius Fishermen’s Cooperative Federation.

 The 6th session was covered by the local media

Members were strongly in favor of registering the forum as soon as possible, says Eric Blais, so as to give credence to the work which they want to carry out. Office bearers were elected during this meeting with Nature Seychelles being elected as the Vice Secretary. SWIOTUNA’s executive committee will now work on the registration process including working out the most suitable host country for the forum. Members want SWIOTUNA to work closely with regional and international organisations such as WIOMSA, COI and WWF.

 “I think it was a very successful meeting. Although we face different challenges in the fisheries sector in Seychelles compared to the other countries, it was still very informative to learn different approaches to fisheries issues from presentations of other non-state organisations in the region.” Eric says. “I am looking forward to the new post as Vice Secretary which will basically include assisting the executive committee with its duties including operations, meetings and records. Our hope is that soon we will be able to put together a regional project which we can approach donors with,” he concludes.

 Group photo after the two day session

Dr. Nirmal Jivan Shah, CEO of Nature Seychelles who had attended one of the first meetings of the Forum had enthusiastically supported Nature Seychelles participation in the forum over the years. “SWIOTUNA can become a keystone in the building of the Blue Economy because it can leverage the skills, dynamism and creativity of civil society – something that seems to have been neglected in all the talk about the management of tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean,” he says.

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