The meeting marks the first time that the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) international Stakeholder Council has met in Africa and coincides with World Food Day 2014.
In recognition of the importance of seafood to developing world economies, representatives from African nations discussed the urgent need to take action towards securing healthy marine ecosystems and sustainable fishing livelihoods.
Government delegates from Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, the Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania shared their experiences.
The MSC sustainable seafood certification program was recognised as an important mechanism in delivering change towards sustainable fishing.
Peter Sinon, Minister of Natural Resources of the Republic of Seychelles addressed the meeting expressing his support for African nations working together with the MSC.
Minister Sinon said: “As a region, we share an invaluable resource. Tuna in the Seychelles does not stay there. Fish have no borders. They travel all over the Indian Ocean.
"If we do not work together to manage our fish populations, we will defeat our purpose as governments to ensure the long term economic prosperity of our countries.
"We need to implant sustainable fishing practices in the minds of everyone – this is something we need to do together.
“In the Seychelles we are very much prepared to be at the forefront of joint working. We are working with our tuna industry to support assessment towards MSC certification and encourage other nations to do the same.”
The MSC programme provides a mechanism for change. It sets a high standard for sustainable fishing. The MSC ecolabel enables retailers and consumers to recognise and reward sustainable fishing practises.
Werner Kiene, Chairman of the Marine Stewardship Council said: “The MSC’s board has made it clear that we are prepared to help African nations to deliver on their strong resolve to do justice to the idea of sustainable fishing. These improvements can be delivered on a solid basis of science and political experience.”
Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC said: “To deliver our vision of 20 per cent of wild capture seafood certified as sustainable by 2020, we must engage with regions around the Indian Ocean. To support this the MSC is developing new tools and methodologies which will increase the accessibility of the MSC program to fisheries within the developing world.
“There are no quick wins or easy fixes to the problem of unsustainable fishing, but creating consumer demand for sustainable seafood has an important role to play. Evidence shows that MSC certified fisheries deliver measurable benefits by keeping fish stocks at healthy levels whilst giving fisheries access to new markets where sustainable seafood is in increasing demand. I hope that today’s meeting is the beginning of new real and lasting improvements in the way that African oceans are fished.”
Delegates at the MSC Stakeholder Council meeting took the opportunity to visit the facilities of Irvin & Johnson (I&J), one of the fishing companies that is part of the MSC-certified-South African hake trawl fishery in Cape Town.
The fishery is a great example of the benefits delivered as a result of the MSC program. Since achieving certification in 2004 the fishery has reduced bycatch of seabirds by 99 per cent and led to the rebuilding of hake stocks. Certification has also allowed the fishery to develop new export markets worth US$ 187 million, securing 12,000 jobs within South Africa’s fishing and related industries.
The meeting of African regional representatives was also attended by inter-regional organisations and development agencies from across Africa, who agreed to work with governments to support this effort.
This included representatives from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), WWF, East Southern African Regional Programme, the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and German development agency (GIZ).
Christine Penney, co-Chair of the MSC Stakeholder Council said: “I am delighted that this first meeting of the Stakeholder Council to be held in the developing world, and in Africa, has proved so productive.
"The Stakeholder Council includes representatives from many areas of society – fisheries, industry, environmental NGOs, independent scientists and retailers – from across the globe. It has a special sub-committee dealing with the developing world, which is of very high importance to the Council.”
Professor Eyiwunmi Augustine Falaye of University of Ibadan in Nigeria has been appointed the new Chairman of the MSC’s Developing World Working Group and will continue to work with developing countries to inform the MSC’s work.