E€OFISH, a new programme to promote sustainable fishing in East Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean region, was officially launched in Port Louis, on 9 December 2020. Promoted and funded by the European Union, this initiative counts several implementing partners. In the Republic of Mauritius, E€OFISH is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping.
The countries bordering Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, the seas of East and Southern Africa, and the Indian Ocean, have long understood the importance of regional cooperation regarding the management of their fish resources. From 1987 to 1997, the Indian Ocean Commission member countries have established the first regional fisheries programme and, since then, extensive projects such as the Smartfish Programme (2011-2017) have been implemented on a collaborative model. Through the E€OFISH Programme, which aims to bring about a positive change in the lives of fishers of the region, much emphasis is once more laid on the strengthening of cross-border and regional collaboration between organizations and institutions working for sustainable fishing.
An inter-regional approach
In addition to promoting sustainable maritime and continental fisheries management in the Indian Ocean islands and Eastern and Southern Africa, E€OFISH will support the Regional Fisheries Monitoring Plan (PSRP) for the prevention, deterrence and elimination of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), and support concrete initiatives to manage inland and marine fisheries.
The overarching purpose of the E€OFISH inter-regional approach remains the well-being of fishers, whether it is the octopus fisher of Rodrigues or the angler on Lake Tanganyika. In the Republic of Mauritius, E€OFISH will be geared towards the artisanal fishing community which is the main fish provider to the local market and is currently facing challenges including over-exploited lagoons and ageing. These factors, coupled with a reluctance to venture further out to sea for off-lagoon fishing, have contributed to reduced artisanal fish production during the last decade and thus need to be addressed.
‘Supporting the economic empowerment of the artisanal fishing community of the Republic of Mauritius’
In Mauritius, the E€OFISH programme is supported by a European Union grant of € 1M and will be implemented through the ‘Supporting the economic empowerment of the artisanal fishing community of the Republic of Mauritius’ project. Covering a period of 48 months, this project will provide assistance to the artisanal fishing communities of Mauritius and Rodrigues and will ensure the sustainable management of coastal fisheries on both islands. The beneficiaries of the project will be trained to make use of best fishing practices, including modern techniques and facilities (GPS and FADS) for off-lagoon fishing. They will also benefit from environmentally friendly post-harvest infrastructure and training to apply EU-norms for fish hygiene to facilitate access to export markets. Greater participation of women and young people in post-harvest processing is another main aim of the project.
It is expected that the opportunities offered under the E€OFISH Programme will, in the medium and long terms, improve livelihood opportunities for the artisanal fishers; and enhance food security for the population of Mauritius and Rodrigues, while contributing to the better management of the environment.