Status and Future of Sustainable Fisheries Partnerhip Agreements in the South West Indian Ocean

Published: 8th Jan, 2020

‘The Status and Future of Fisheries Partnership Agreements in the South West Indian Ocean’ draws on Stop Illegal Fishing’s long experience in the South West Indian Ocean region and describes the development of the EU bilateral fishing agreements with countries in the SWIO since the 1970s. These bilateral agreements, negotiated and concluded by the European Commission (EC) on behalf of all EU Members States, have evolved to become Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPA). SFPAs sit within the framework of the external dimension of the EU’s Common Fishery Policy (CFP) and enable EU vessels to fish surplus stocks in the partner country’s EEZ within an agreed framework of cooperation.

For SFPAs to continue to create mutual benefits for the coastal States and the EU within the changing dynamics of global fisheries, there are some challenges to overcome. These include an improved system for reporting what has been caught, better information transparency, stronger links to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) conservation and management measures, and clear delineation between how the EU Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU) Regulation is applied compared with the SFPA mechanism.

This report outlines the SFPA mechanism and details the opportunities available to the EU and countries in the SWIO to improve their SFPAs. Alternative solutions that could be adopted in the future are also explored, such as the possibility of a regional SFPA or incorporation of broader ocean approaches, to embrace the development of sustainable blue economies, within the region.

SFPAs, when transparent and well-managed, can benefit both the EU and the coastal State. To secure the future of fair and equitable SFPAs in the SWIO, a series of recommendations are made to guide future SFPA negotiations. These include:

  • Improve the system for EU fishing vessels to report their catches to coastal States under SFPAs, enabling coastal States to monitor fishing activities more effectively, evaluate catches and manage their fisheries.
  • Increase transparency in the negotiation of SFPAs, by involving civil society and relevant regional organisations such as the IOTC.
  • Increase transparency on all access agreements made by coastal States, both public and private.
  • Ensure figures used in SFPAs are relevant and credible by ensuring that the number of vessels covered is realistic, the amount available to catch is consistent with IOTC conservation and management measures and scientific evidence, and the price per tonne is based on reasonably expected first sale values.
  • Increase the focus of SFPA sector support to coastal States for implementing their national development policies and strategies, including for catching and processing, with an aim to improve social and economic benefits from the fishery while ensuring sustainable development and exploitation.
  • Increase recognition of regional and sub-regional processes and instruments, such as agreed minimum terms and conditions for fisheries access, towards maintaining long-term access for EU fishing vessels and improving the sustainable management of fish stocks.
  • Negotiate with countries in the SWIO region that do not have an SFPA or have a dormant SFPA, with the aim to secure wider access for EU fishing vessels to available resources and to improve income for the coastal States.


This report was written by Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF) in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). This report, compiled and written by Sandy Davies and Mathew Markides (SIF), is based on information and understanding gained from Stop Illegal Fishing’s ongoing work within the SWIO region. The report was reviewed and finalised by Antonia Leroy, Larissa Milo-Dale and Dr Samantha Burgess (WWF). Funding for the preparation of this report was provided by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) for the “Sustainable Fisheries – Supporting Livelihoods, Equity, and Ecosystems in South Western Indian Ocean Communities” project.

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