Extractive Industries - Natural Resources - Africa and the Middle East

Leading the Way For a More Transparent and Sustainable Fishing Economy

Seychelles / September 18, 2021


With the future of the world’s fisheries facing serious threats due to overfishing, Seychelles is the first nation to publish its report in Partnership with the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI). This small island nation is working to protect the future of this sector, upon which its people and economy are massively dependent. 

An Archipelago Nation Built on Fishing

Seventeen percent of the Seychelles population draws its income from fishing, and fish is one of the few foods that does not need to be imported. Fishing and tourism are the main pillars of Seychelles’ economy. The complex challenge the Seychelles is currently facing hits very close to home for many: the country needs to continue relying on fishing and fish trade for its contributions to the economy as well as the income, employment, and food for its population, whilst ensuring marine biodiversity for future generations.

A lot of information about the Fisheries sector is not available, and what is available is not widely shared, often very delayed, poor quality, lacks objectivity, and is hard to understand for most of the public. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements exist, such as between Seychelles and the EU, but these have been agreed with no consultation with local stakeholders, there are no provisions for transparency on the specific agreements, or what the income from these agreements will be used for. This means that those who are the most affected by any decisions made about the fishing industry, the citizens, do not have access to the right information and have not been involved in any of the agreements.

In the vacuum of verifiable information, mistrust grows. Without transparency about how the fishing economy and ecological protections are managed, the understandable fear about people’s livelihood and their futures leads to rumors, misinformation, and suspicion.

Committing to Transparency in the Fisheries Sector

In its first action plan, Seychelles became the first OGP member to make a commitment to implement the FiTI standards to bring more transparency, empower citizens, and fight corruption in the fisheries sector.

It aims to increase awareness and understanding about how the fishing industries function in different regions. By enforcing greater transparency about the number of fishing vessels, income from licenses, quantities being fished, and information of subsidies, the public, and policy makers, are able to hold their government and the fishing corporations to account, and to make more informed decisions about policies. This in turn ensures that the fisheries sector can continue its vital contribution to the national economy, whilst helping with the fair distribution of revenues. The FiTI report brings an extra degree of trustworthiness to the information being provided, and contributes meaningfully to public debate. In short: those who are most affected, should now have a chance to be much more directly involved.

Seychelles Leads the Vanguard: The World’s first FiTI Report

Notably, Seychelles has been the first country in the world to conduct an assessment of the level of transparency in its fisheries sector.

The 2021 FiTI report shows that the need for transparency is still significant. National measures, such as the 2018 Access to Information Act have meant that some information is collated and published. However, a lot of information is still not accessible to the public or is not clear enough for a general reader to make sense of it.

The report focuses on gathering important information about the fisheries industry such as the percentage of fishing licenses granted that have been properly paid for, the details of foreign fishing access agreements, the quantities of fish caught by whom, and how these are reported. But importantly, it also reviews how complete this information is, where it is lacking — either through lack of disclosure or because not enough is done to monitor the industries. It assesses the degree to which this information is publicly available, or understandable. What it finds is a consistent imbalance, with incomplete information or information hidden from the public. There are indications about fish stock levels, but no comprehensive study to get any concrete answers about the state of fish levels. This makes it hard to properly determine how much of the Seychelles’ waters are overfished and make decisions that take that into account. Details about contracts awarded to international fishing companies or domestic industrial fisheries include clauses that prevent them from being made public. In these examples the report advocates for conducting adequate studies, and ensuring that future contracts do not contain these privacy clauses.

So far, Seychelles is responding to the conclusions of the report with a public awareness campaign, and encouraging greater engagement from stakeholders. Members of Seychelles’ National Multi Stakeholder Group are undertaking a ‘Tour des Seychelles’, in which they present the FiTI report to various fisheries stakeholders and encourage them to debate and engage with its contents.

Letting the People Know; The Genesis of Annual Transparency Reports

As the first country to include the FiTI in its OGP Action Plan, and the first country to publish an FiTI report, Seychelles is leading the way in transparency in fisheries industries, and in the fight to protect the ecological balance of the oceans as well as ensuring economic security for future generations.

The next steps involve spreading awareness of the benefits of transparency, encouraging input from stakeholders, and finding ways to engage the public on the issues of transparency in the fisheries industry by making the published information more accessible and understandable. The FiTI report provides itemised points where greater transparency is needed and suggestions on how to make adjustments. Seychelles intends to publish a yearly FiTI report, so progress can be monitored year on year, meaning that public awareness and increasing transparency should be growing alongside one another in a mutually reinforcing relationship.

PHOTO Credit: Imran Ahmad for the Seychelles Tourism Board

Last updated: September 19, 2021

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