Indian Ocean’s Smartfish wins global award for fight against illegal fishing

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The Smartfish victory applauded by Michele Kuruc, vice-president–ocean policy (WWF), and Cephase Ralph, chair, International MCS Network. Image: FFA

By Lealaiauloto A F Tauafiafi in Auckland

The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) has walked away with the top two global prizes awarded for efforts against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The third prize went to Peru.

The winners were selected by an international panel of judges composed of leading experts from the MCS field in the world.

“The judges did agree unanimously on a first place winner which reflected an innovative, ingenious and very low cost solution to one of the fundamentals of MCS Network”, said Michele Kuruc, vice-president-ocean policy, World Wildlife Fund and Cephase Ralph, chair, International MCS Network.

The IOC’s award-winning projects are implemented through the Smartfish project, a $25 million euro European Union-funded programme involving 20 countries in East and Southern Africa implemented by IOC.

Its intervention focuses on fisheries management, policy, food security, marketing and trade, and monitoring control and surveillance (MCS).

In receiving the award at the 5th Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop taking place in Auckland, the key expert for Smartfish, Marcel Kroese, felt the bigger prize was still in the water.

-Partners-

Reflecting on the popularity of rugby union in South Africa, Kroese could not help but highlight Smartfish’s victory could improve the disappointing run of losses that the South African Springboks has against host New Zealand’s current world rugby champions, the All Blacks.

‘Winning World Cup’
“It felt like winning the World Cup in New Zealand,” he said.

“The only time South Africa will win something here.”

The first prize went to SmartFish pilot project in Tanzania: Fishing Vessel Registration and Licensing.

Tanzania sits at the heart of the East African region, is an important link in a chain of coral reefs, mangroves, that support a host of locally important ecosystems and fisheries stretching along 1400 km of coastline.

But in recent years, it has fallen prey to a particular destructive illegal practice – blast fishing with a wide range of explosions.

The rationale for this intervention was to demonstrate to the local government authorities that revenue streams derived from fisheries could be significantly increased with improved levels of vessel registration and licensing through the adoption of an inspection method that could easily determine compliant vessels and those not licensed and registered in their district, or adjacent districts.

The second prize is related to the implementation of a Multi-Agency Task Team (MATT) to address organised environmental crime including fishery crimes (Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and blast fishing), illegal mining, smuggling of wildlife and timber in Tanzania.

The activities conducted by IOC’s SmartFish programme (IOC-SmartFish) focused on a collaborative process to incorporate all role players in the blast fishing value chain and to have a cohesive strategy to address blast fishing.

The MATT methodology was tested for 1 year in Tanzania and resulted in establishing the smuggling routes domestically and internationally. Through joint operations of the MATT, more than 3000 kg of explosives were seized and several suspects arrested.

This is the second “Stop IUU Fishing Award” managed by the IMCS Network, based in Washington, DC, which aims to recognise innovative solutions used in both small and large scale fisheries to deter IUU fishing.

Indian Ocean Commission: 30 years of expertise
The Indian Ocean Commission is a Mauritius-based intergovernmental organisation regrouping five member states, including Comoros, France/Reunion, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles. It has registered more than 30 years of expertise on coastal and marine environment issues. The IOC-SmartFish programme is the largest EU funded Fisheries programme in Africa, involving 20 countries.

The Stop IUU Fishing Award
At the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) meeting of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2011, it was recognised that “development and implementation of appropriate tools and approaches remain vital”. The Stop IUU Fishing Award seeks to encourage and recognise development of appropriate MCS tools that will help in the global fight against IUU fishing.

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