The fisheries sector in SADC countries, comprising marine and inland capture fisheries and aquaculture, generates a variety of benefits, including nutrition and food security, livelihoods, employment, exports and foreign currency, and conservation and biodiversity values that are of global significance. In order to optimize benefits from the fisheries and aquaculture SADC Heads of State in 2001 endorsed the SADC Protocol on Fisheries.
The Protocol aims to promote responsible and sustainable use of the living aquatic resources and aquatic ecosystems of interest to State Parties, in order to (i) promote and enhance food security and human health, (ii) safeguard the livelihood of fishing communities, (iii) generate economic opportunities from nationals in the region, (iv) ensure that future generations benefit from these renewable resources; and (v) alleviate poverty with the ultimate objective of its eradication.
In 2008 SADC Ministers responsible for Marine fisheries signed a “Statement of Commitment to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing” in support of Article 9 of the SADC Protocol on Fisheries. The SADC Statement of Commitment to combat IUU fishing, which is an Annex to the Protocol on Fisheries, is aimed at (a) improving regional and inter-regional cooperation with a view to eradicating IUU fishing, (b) strengthening fisheries governance and legal frameworks to eliminate IUU fishing, (c) developing regional plan of action in relation to IUU fishing, and (d) strengthening fisheries monitoring control and surveillance capacity regionally.
The Protocol is implemented through the Implementation Strategy which was approved in 2010 in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe by the Ministers responsible for Environment and Natural Resources, and it consists of five areas of focus, a) aquaculture, b) management of shared fisheries resources, c) combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, d) small-scale/artisanal fisheries, and e) fish trade.
Status of Fisheries Resources in the Region
The Region has recently experienced steady increase in overall fisheries production as a result of increases in aquaculture production in some of the Member States. The sub-sector has generated an annual average growth rate of about 13%. Total aquaculture production was about 56 000 metric tons. The overall capture fisheries production trends indicate that the region produces only 2.6 million tons, which has more or less stagnated (FAO, 2014).
The fisheries sector in the Region contributes an average of about 2% to the SADC GDP, with total average exports worth of USD152 million & average imports of USD100 million. The sector employs an average of 145 000 people, of which more than a million benefit indirectly. Per capita fish consumption in the region is 11kg per person, which constitutes an average of 16% of the total animal protein intake & 5% of the total protein intake. This makes the contribution of fisheries to food & nutrition security in the Region significant.
The Region is currently experiencing challenges with fish diseases, limited technical skills & technologies, & limited funding that continue to affect the growth of aquaculture. In addition, fish stocks continue to dwindle due to challenges with illegal, unreported & unregulated (IUU) fishing, degradation of aquatic environments, climate change & lack of capacity to effectively manage fish stocks.
Fisheries and aquaculture in the Blue Economy/Growth
Fisheries are vital oceanic and aquatic resource that forms the core of blue economy. Besides wild catch, there has been phenomenal growth in fish farming in the SADC region. While adoption of aquaculture is growing over time due to increasing demand for fish and fish products, people in many parts of the world, specifically in the SADC region view aquaculture as a sector for gainful employment and self-enterprise. Most if not all the member countries of SADC are well-endowed with fisheries and aquatic plants which could be harnessed for the growth of blue economy. Following the principles of blue economy, the problems of overfishing, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, fishing in high and open seas, etc. are expected to be regulated even though the focus would still be on the optimum use of fishery stock in the region. In other words, blue economy may warrant a significant departure from the conventional fishing practices and regulations in the SADC countries. In addition, this may necessitate changes in the legal and institutional structures for enabling a smooth realization of blue economy goals.
Regional Fisheries Programme
Derived from the Implementation Strategy of the Protocol on Fisheries is the SADC Fisheries Programme. The Programme guides SADC Member States, the SADC Secretariat and partner organizations on the priority projects and interventions identified towards the implementation of the Protocol on Fisheries, regional strategies and plans.
SADC Technical Committee on Fisheries facilitates the implementation of this Programme, and is supported by the SADC Working Group on Aquaculture and the SADC Task Force on IUU fishing.