Inaugural meeting of the SADC MCSCC Task Force – a giant step for regional cooperation on fisheries

By Stop Illegal Fishing:14th Dec, 2023:

On 6 – 8 December 2023, representatives of the signatory countries to the MCSCC Charter gathered in Cape Town for the first meeting of the SADC MCSCC Operational Task Force. A new milestone for cooperation on the protection of the region’s fisheries, which advances further the processes for the operationalisation of the SADC Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Coordination Centre (MCSCC).

“We want a better future, together” – it is with these words that Motseki Hlatshwayo, fisheries technical advisor at the SADC Secretariat, summarised the long-lasting commitment of SADC member States to the protection of the region’s fisheries.

After the adoption of the Protocol on Fisheries in 2001 and the Statement of Commitment to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2008, the recent entry into force of the Charter for the establishment of the SADC MCSCC in April 2023 gives the region the means to realise the vision promoted by the SADC Fisheries Ministers for over two decades.

This inaugural meeting of the MCSCC Task Force formalises a process that the signatories to the MCSCC Charter had already started as a non-official network. This was instrumental in keeping momentum until the MCSCC would be legally established, as the entry into force of the MCSCC Charter took six years after it was adopted by SADC Fisheries Ministers in 2017. With this new milestone achieved, priority is now on advancing all the processes linked to the operationalisation of the MCSCC, including the key function of the MCSCC to establish a regional register of fishing vessels operating in the SADC waters.

To formalise the MCSCC Task Force, the representatives from the founding members discussed the Terms of Reference that will guide their work, underpinning the objectives of the MCSCC. These Terms of Reference will be validated at the next Task Force meeting.

One of the main objectives of the meeting was to start discussions on the establishment of the SADC Regional Register of Fishing Vessels, one of the key functions of the MCSCC. With the adoption of the 2017 MCSCC Charter, SADC Member States have committed to developing the Regional Register within the Centre. However, details on the requirements and the process to operate this Regional Register have so far not been defined. The objective of first Task Force meeting in Cape Town was to reemphasise the importance and benefits of establishing such a register, with harmonised criteria for access across the region. Task Force Members are aware that this will be a process, as this requires consensus on the criteria used to assess whether a vessel should be authorised to operate in the region and to be listed on the register. In other words, what transparency should be required from fishing vessels operators as a preliminary condition to access the region.

A major outcome was the agreement of the Task Force on the following basic requirements to be eligible for the SADC Regional Register of Fishing Vessels:

  1. the vessel is not listed on an RFMO IUU vessel list,
  2. the vessel does not have an INTERPOL IUU alert issued against it,
  3. there is a flag State authorisation for the vessel to fish outside of the flag State, and
  4. the vessel has an IMO number.

The Task Force mandated the MCSCC to prepare a proposal for minimum criteria for the SADC Regional Register of Fishing Vessels and a plan for implementation to be shared before, and discussed at, the second meeting of the MCSCC Task Force. Stop Illegal Fishing will assist the MCSCC in elaborating these documents.

This recommendation of the Task Force is another milestone in the implementation of regional cooperation on fisheries. And it is only the start. Beyond these minimum requirements, the Task Force also discussed further areas of transparency that would support collective action against IUU fishing in the region, taking as a basis the Principles of two global initiatives for fisheries transparency: the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) and the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency. To build further on these discussions, the Task Force recommended that the MCSCC should prepare awareness material to promote these principles in the region and link them to regional commitments. This includes researching further into the Charter requirements to highlight their relevance to the region (both in terms of existing commitments and practical benefits) and identify potential barriers that should be considered and overcome.

Defining regional minimum transparency requirements as harmonised conditions of access to SADC waters, that’s the spirit of the 2001 Protocol on Fisheries. The Task Force had made critical steps towards this vision, to empower SADC countries to decide who THEY want to operate in their waters.

The Task Force meeting was supported by the Oceans Vigilance project of the MCSCC, implemented by SIF and TMT and resourced by Oceans 5, and by a project of the MCSCC implemented by WWF in Mozambique. The Oceans Vigilance project is working to support the SADC Member States to implement the Regional Register and through this to improve transparency in the region.

Recent Posts

Ghana’s SOP Workshop of the West Africa Task Force (WATF) Technical Team

The Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) held a...

Read More...

President of the Republic of Mozambique oversees the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the SADC’s new MCS Centre

The official groundbreaking ceremony for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Fisheries...

Read More...

South Africa works to implement legal, safe and fair fisheries

A three-day workshop was held in South Africa, Cape Town on the 16-18...

Read More...

SIF announces commitment to work with the SADC MCSCC to develop the SADC Regional Register of Fishing Vessels by 2026.

Intending to tackle the scourge of IUU fishing and safeguard maritime security and...

Read More...

SIF News Categories

The Issues

One in four fish in Africa is caught illegally, this threatens the sustainability of fish stocks, damages the ecosystem and deprives governments of income and people of livelihoods.

Find Out More...

Our Approach

Creating change by informing policy and practice, our hands on experience and investigative work means we are often the first to spot new trends and find ways to challenge these.

Read More...

Our Initiatives

Illegal fishing is a complex issue that requires multifaceted responses. Stop Illegal Fishing are working with a range of organisations to bring about change.

Find Out More...

Recent Posts

Ghana’s SOP Workshop of the West Africa Task Force (WATF) Technical Team

The Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) held a...

Read More...

President of the Republic of Mozambique oversees the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the SADC’s new MCS Centre

The official groundbreaking ceremony for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Fisheries...

Read More...

South Africa works to implement legal, safe and fair fisheries

A three-day workshop was held in South Africa, Cape Town on the 16-18...

Read More...