The SADC Fisheries Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Coordination Centre – set to enter into force in April 2023

By Stop Illegal Fishing:9th Mar, 2023:

Gaborone, 9 March 2023.

The Republic of Botswana became the eleventh signatory of the Charter establishing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance Coordination Centre (MCSCC) – passing the two thirds mark required for the Charter to enter into force. With the Charter entering into force, the Regional MCSCC can now be established to assist the region in prioritising the protection of fisheries to underpin greater benefits and blue growth.

Today is a historical moment for the SADC cooperation on fisheries. It is the culmination of over two decades of regional commitment to improving cooperation on promoting responsible and sustainable use of all fisheries resources in the SADC region – both inland and marine resources. Twenty-two years ago, in 2001, the Heads of State or Government of the SADC signed the Protocol on Fisheries, in which they marked their conviction of the “necessity for joint-cooperative and integrative actions at the regional level to optimise the sustainable use of the living aquatic resources of the Region for the continued benefit of the people of the Region”[1]. This landmark Protocol has been a steppingstone for region-wide commitment to fisheries cooperation, with the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as one of the main targets. In Namibia, in 2008, the Statement of Commitment by SADC Ministers responsible for fisheries on IUU fishing highlighted the growing concern on the harmful consequences of IUU fishing and called for the creation of a regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Centre.

This commitment materialized in 2017 through the Charter establishing the SADC Fisheries MCSCC, which was approved by the SADC Council of Ministers in Pretoria, South Africa. The establishment of the SADC MCSCC builds on the SADC Common Agenda and aims to deepen the integration agenda with a view to accelerating poverty eradication and the attainment of economic and sustainable development goals. By developing shared policies, regulations and controls the SADC MCSCC will feed into SADC integration milestones to develop a free trade area, customs union and a common market.

The Charter was to come into force following ratification by two-thirds of SADC Member States. Today, 9 March 2023, Botswana has become the eleventh signatory of the Charter, reaching the required two-third threshold, after Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Madagascar.

The commitment of Botswana to regional cooperation on fisheries management through the MCSCC is significant. It highlights the need for cooperation not only on marine, but also on inland fisheries, which play a critical role in terms of poverty eradication and food security in the region. In the SADC region, 40 percent of the estimated 2.5 million tonnes annual fisheries production comes from inland fisheries. 90 percent of these inland captures are used for direct human consumption, providing livelihoods to small-scale fishers in poorer areas within SADC where food insecurity is prevalent. The SADC region has several large water systems, shared amongst borders, which require regional cooperation to fight challenges such as unsustainable fishing practices, unregulated cross-border trade and other associated illegal activities. The Regional MCSCC will provide a cost-effective mechanism to support operational cooperation, for all SADC’s fisheries.

The MCSCC will coordinate regional fisheries MCS data and information sharing services, including a regional fishing vessel register and monitoring system; provision of regional fisheries surveillance, observer coordination and port State measures support services; provision of fisheries law enforcement and legal support services; and help to support improvements in the capacity of national MCS systems.

“With the signature of the Charter by Botswana, we now have the means to move to the full collaboration model of working together, to ensure the sustainability of all our fisheries and promote blue growth. This includes tackling entrenched issues such as regional fisheries management and IUU fishing, a plague that SADC Ministers fisheries have pledged to fight. The foundation we are building on is solid and now we can grow stronger and go further”, said Ms. Angele Makombo N’tumba, Deputy Executive Secretary – Regional Integration from the SADC Secretariat as she closed the ceremony.

The operationalisation of the MCSCC is a turning point, for which the SADC countries and relevant actors have been getting ready for the last decade. It gives green light to Mozambique to lay the foundation stone of the physical MCSCC Center in Maputo.

Mark Ssemakula, chairperson of Stop Illegal Fishing stated “The first activity of Stop Illegal Fishing was to support the SADC Secretariat and Member States to develop the Statement of Commitment on IUU fishing in 2008. Since then, illegal operators have been fined, vessels have been confiscated, and corrupt networks have been disrupted, through this, a much greater understanding about IUU fishing operators has developed and with this knowledge we are better armed to overcome it. But it we have learnt one thing, it is that we can only fight this plague together, united in our work. Therefore, today is without doubt a significant milestone in giving our enforcement personnel the political and practical support they need to put an end to IUU fishing in Southern Africa.”

Today, SADC Fisheries Ministers allowed the region to make one more historic step “towards their common future”. And they are giving themselves the means to achieve this goal[2].

[1] https://www.sadc.int/sites/default/files/2021-08/SADC_Protocol_on_Fisheries.pdf

[2] https://stopillegalfishing.com/publications/protecting-our-fisheries-working-towards-a-common-future/

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