Discussions on the development of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) wide regional vessel monitoring system (VMS) and automatic identification system (AIS) monitoring programme took place at a Regional Training Workshop on Electronic Technologies used for Fisheries Management.

The workshop took place during the 6th meeting of the SADC Task Force on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and was organized under the auspices of the recently established MCSCC.

Member States provided updates on implementation of the Regional Plan of Action for IUU (RPOA-IUU) that was approved by Ministers, as part of implementation of the 2008 SADC Statement of Commitment to combat IUU fishing.

The increasing awareness of AIS as a fisheries monitoring tool has led to calls for mandatory AIS on all commercial fishing vessels active in the Western Indian Ocean Region. Being able to track the location and activity of fishing vessels is a vital means of making sure that operators are abiding by the laws and increasing numbers of coastal States now require AIS as part of their licensing conditions.

Per Erik Bergh commented, “FISH-i Africa has found AIS data to be a critical source in identifying potential illegal activity and high risk operators. In ongoing investigations AIS continues to provide valuable insight into the location and activity of fishing vessels. Stop Illegal Fishing supports the call for mandatory AIS as a means of stamping out illegal fishing and increasing transparency and traceability to the fish supply chain.”

Elsa Patria, Stop Illegal Fishing Chairperson, commended the progress towards regional MCS activities. “ The SADC Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Coordination Center (MCSCC) provides a significant opportunity to review the activity and capacity throughout our region and to provide stronger and more effective support for all. The existing VMS capacity is mixed and we hope this is one area where the new centre will be able to make a significant contribution.”

Alongside established monitoring systems additional technologies such as DETECT IT: Fish, a web-based tool that identifies potential flows of illegal trade in seafood based on discrepancies in reported import and export data between countries was considered. Developed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and TRAFFIC and powered by HPE Vertica technology, Detect IT: Fish enables automated collection, comparison, and analysis of customs data to help detect illegal trade in seafood at a global scale.

The coordination of future regional fisheries patrol operations was also discussed as part of a wider effort to improve the regions’ capacity to combat IUU fishing, with the results of the recent Operation Jodari, a collaboration between Tanzania, Sea Shepherd Global and FISH-i Africa, presented. Hosea Gonza Mbilinyi, Chair of the Working Party on Collaboration and Cooperation on Tuna Fisheries under the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (WPCCTF-SWIOFC) commented, “At-sea enforcement capacity is a critical element of protecting our ocean resources and their sustainability. We have seen the success of Operation Jodari in the United Republic of Tanzania, which led to the inspection and arrest of a number of artisanal, semi commercial and industrial fishing vessels as well as transport vessels of different sizes to counter fisheries and environmental crimes. With wider regional support and cooperation this would have been an even more effective operation as vessels that sought to avoid inspection in the Tanzania EEZ could have been apprehended in adjoining waters.”