September 11/12 saw the South West Indian Ocean Region’s seventh convention of the working party for collaboration and cooperation in tuna fisheries (WPCCTF). Delegates from Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, and the United Republic of Tanzania attended the meeting, held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The meeting focused on the harmonisation of management of tuna fisheries and other highly migratory resources. “One major milestone achieved since the Tanzania meeting was the endorsement of the Minimum Terms and Conditions for fishing access. This is seen as an important milestone towards the sustainable management of fisheries in the SWIO region,” said WPCCTF chairperson, Hosea Gonza Mbilinyi.

Per Erik Bergh, FISH-i Africa Task Force, stressed the importance of the role that the countries of the South West Indian Ocean can now take in implementing this agreement. “Agreeing common Minimum Terms and Conditions in the SW Indian Ocean region is a major achievement, and places the opportunity and responsibility firmly in the hands of the countries.  Ultimately we are working towards a binding agreement, but if the MTCs are promoted and pilot projects are considered, the implementation could start tomorrow rather than in 5 years time when the agreement may be binding.”

The Chair of FISH-i Africa, Nicholas Nthektha welcomed the progress being made on the MTC. “In the past we have seen countries acting independently without realising the benefits that are possible when the region acts as one. We have seen though FISH-i Africa and the IOC Regional Patrols that together we are stronger. Together we will be able to stop illegal fishing and bring tangible benefits to our people.”

The meeting was organised by South West Indian Ocean Fishery Commission (SWIOFC), with the technical support of FAO and financial support of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) through the SWIOFish1 programme funded by the World Bank and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).