The 2017 Our Ocean conference, hosted by the EU and held in Malta, resulted in commitments from countries, organisations and industry to the value of over EUR 6 billion, to tackle the greatest challenges facing the ocean environment.

With sessions focussed on marine pollution, marine protection, maritime security, building the sustainable blue economy, climate change and ocean leadership a common theme of ‘working together’ was repeated by speakers from all sectors. In his keynote address HRH Prince Charles called for urgent action to tackle plastic pollution and subsidies that lead to overfishing and illegal fishing. He also cautioned against the expectations of the ‘blue economy’ stating, “We should not mistake the ocean for a new frontier for endless exploitation, but an ecosystem that ensures our survival.”

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission told delegates, “Our ocean is bigger than any continent, if the ocean was a country it would be one of the world’s biggest economies and would have a seat at the G7; yet it is not too big to fail.”

Commitments from Africa included that of President Danny Faure of the Seychelles who announced the development of a National Maritime Security Strategy in response to growing concerns over the return of piracy in the North West Indian Ocean.

Stop Illegal Fishing Chairperson, Elsa da Gloria Pátria, announced, on behalf of the FISH-i Africa Task Force, to launch a programme of VIGILANCE in the Western Indian Ocean. VIGILANCE will be a robust assessment of all industrial fishing vessels licensed to fish by FISH-i members to assess the legality of their identity, history, ownership and management. This is in response to the systematic illegalities and criminal offences identified by FISH-i Africa investigations.

The Hon. Premdut Koonjoo, Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping for Mauritius confirmed their commitment to assess all the fishing vessels operating in the waters of the Indian Ocean Commission States in order to study their identity, history, ownership and activities, with a view to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing.

FISH-i Africa Chairperson, Nicholas Ntheketha welcomed this move, “Port Louis is one of the major ports for the tuna fleet operating in the Indian Ocean and is critical to ensuring that we have a compliant fisheries sector. We welcome the plans laid out by Minister Koonjoo to assess the fleet and look forward to a close cooperation between all the member countries of the Indian Ocean Commission and FISH-i Africa.”

The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) announced the extension from five to eight Participating States of the EU-funded Regional Fisheries Monitoring mechanism in the Southwest Indian Ocean. The Participating States (Comoros, Madagascar, France / La Réunion, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania) have signed the 2017 Fisheries Ministerial Declaration to commit to the institutionalised structure of the IOC Secretariat to combat IUU fishing and fisheries crimes in the industrial tuna fisheries in the South West Indian Ocean basin.

Sandy Davies of Stop Illegal Fishing, commented, “Despite the massive challenges so vividly highlighted at Our Ocean, we welcome the commitments and progress made and the enthusiasm for moving forward with everyone and every organisation contributing to ensure that we overcome the challenges that the ocean faces. FISH-i Africa are especially grateful for the commitment by The Pew Charitable Trusts to continue to work together with FISH-i Africa especially in regional coordination. We are also encouraged to see the common approach used by the organisations who are actively working to stop illegal fishing in the Western Indian Ocean. By working together we have a real opportunity to address the challenges faced by the region and to build a more sustainable future for the next generations.”