Towards a more sustainable fisheries sector in Comoros
Located at the northern entrance to the Mozambique Channel, the Comoros archipelago has one of the most productive fishery industries in the Western Indian Ocean region. The Comorian fishery sector currently contributes 24 percent to the nation’s agricultural GDP and 7.5 percent to the national economy overall, according to the World Bank, and produces an estimated 16,000 tons of fish annually, of the country’s existing potential of 33,000 tons per year.
Yet this key sector, so essential to the African country, is facing a mounting challenge. Illegal fishing has become a threat not just to the industry, but also to the ocean ecosystem itself.
Such practices – in a sector that employs 6% of the Comoros population and provides 15,000 jobs – have the potential to disrupt both social and economic life in Comoros.
Authorities in Comoros are strengthening their efforts to fight against these methods and over the years has enacted different directives to fight against illegal fishing. However, the sheer size of Comoros’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – estimated at more than 160,000 km2 and covering 900km of continental shelf and 472 km of coastline – makes putting an end to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing difficult.
Pursuing this battle against these practices, the Directorate General of Fisheries Resources from Comoros, with support from the the Nairobi Convention’s SAPPHIRE project, is developing a new plan that aims to produce a framework document to adopt improved legislative and regulatory texts to fight against these illegal practices. It will create a new sector policy and operational implementation plan that will strengthen the capacity of local fishing stakeholders to combat IUU fishing.
Transitioning to more sustainable techniques
Certain fishing practices are unsustainable and harm natural resources in the long term. These techniques include the use of non-selective gear (which indiscriminately destroys non-target aquatic species) and the use of dynamite, mosquito nets and toxic products (which contribute to the destruction of marine habitats). One of the key objectives of the new plan will be to raise awareness among the community of this problem, mainly through education and training. The project will develop a strategy to incorporate new fishing techniques and to replace destructive practices, as well as to improve the living and working conditions of fishermen.
The initiative is designed to help the Union of Comoros achieve its targets under Sustainable Development Goal 14.6.1, under which it committed to make progress in implementing international instruments to combat IUU fishing. The project will further drive Comoros towards achievement of SDG 14.b.1 that encourages the adoption and the implementation of legal, regulatory policy and institutional frameworks that recognize and protect access rights for small-scale fisheries.
The Nairobi Convention’s SAPPHIRE project promotes policy and institutional reform to help improve the management of the Western Indian Ocean LME. It will build capacity among governments, communities, partners, intergovernmental organizations and the private sector in sustainable resource management and ocean governance.