By Irene !Hoaes
The Southern African region loses US$1 billion yearly, through illegal fishing activities.
The figure has drawn attention to the enormity of the problem and has provided the name for the forthcoming conference “The Billion Dollar Treasure Hunt” – a SADC Marine Fisheries Ministerial Conference to stop illegal fishing.
Namibia will host the three-day conference in the capital starting next Wednesday.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Dr Abraham Iyambo, said SADC has vowed to fight illegal fishing.
“We will demonstrate our political will as a region of ministers responsible for fisheries,” Iyambo told journalists in the capital yesterday.
He stated that illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing distorts fisheries statistics and trade, thus sabotaging management decisions.
“This destructive activity also undermines fish conservation efforts and sustainability regimes. The developing countries are the key victims due to a lack of protective instruments,” he added.
Heads of State and Governments on August 14, 2001, signed the SADC Protocol on Fisheries and to date it has been ratified by nine member states, making it enforceable within the region.
The overall objective of the protocol is to promote responsible and sustainable use of the living aquatic resources and aquatic ecosystems of interest to state parties.
Iyambo said IUU fishing violates everything that the SADC Protocol on Fisheries stands for, including elements of responsibility, fair trade, livelihoods of fishing communities, economic opportunities of affected resource owners, poverty alleviation efforts and food security at large.
The minister said it is therefore an obligation that SADC protects its fishing resources by fighting IUU.
“The global trend in fish catches shows a positive increase for developing countries in comparison to developed countries that depicts a decline in the amount of catches. This scenario makes it favourable for IUU fishers to maximise profits from fish caught in developing countries,” Iyambo noted.
Mostly developed countries are cited as making themselves guilty of the practice, as developing countries rarely have the capacity to carry out the illegal business.
Ministers from seven of the SADC Coastal Countries as well as delegates from neighbouring countries that share resources with SADC in the Indian Ocean, such as Kenya and Seychelles, are expected to attend the conference.
The European Union (EU), Norway, United Kingdom, civil society, regional fisheries management organisations and regional fishery programmes representatives will also be represented at the conference.
Major areas, which will be focused on include improved national fisheries capability and capacity, regional collaboration, cooperation and communication, engagement of all those involved in the chain of custody and strengthening fisheries governance.