You have recently been elected as the president of the “Fédération des Pêcheurs Artisans de L'Océan Indien” and the Federation has been officially launched. What are your priorities?
The first thing would be to set up the organisation i.e. ensure that all the paper works are done which includes the official registration of the organisation. The organisation will be based in Reunion Island, so I also need to ensure that we have the necessary space for the staff, which will soon be recruited. I would also need to get the support and official recognition from the Fisheries Authorities of the region. Another aspect which I would need tolook into urgently is the funding of the organisation. Here seeking assistance from donor organisations both at the regional and international level would be a priority. In the same context, I would also like to request the assistance from other development partners, like the SmartFish Programme, CTA, UNDP and others.
I would like also to prioritize the capacity building for the leaders of the organisation in the first instance to ensure that we do have a capable leadership at the head of the organisation.
We are presently working on a programme of activities for the first year of operation and hope that this will serve as a guide for activities to be undertaken at a later stage.
Another priority would be the development of an active network. This would include retired resource persons who can provide a helping hand to the organisation. I am pretty sure that there are many people willing to assist us.
You mentioned capacity building. Would that also include fishers of the region?
The fisheries sector is presently undergoing drastic changes. With the phenomenon of climate change, we are not sure what will happen in the years to come. I think that artisanal fishers should also be ready to adapt to changing environment. We have noted that in some of the countries e.g. Mauritius, Madagascar there has been a decline in landings over the last few years from the artisanal sector. However, no measures have so far been proposed to the fishing community. Fishers are facing a difficult time. We would like to be able to make suggestions to the concerned authorities and work hand in hand to better cope with this kind of situation. That is why building capacity of fishers is a top priority.
With assistance from development partners, we will fine-tune the kind of training needed in each country as the level of development of the artisanal sector in the IOC countries differs. So training will focus on specific needs of the countries in question.
How does the artisanal sector contribute to the development of the sector and the countries in general in the IOC region?
Artisanal fishers of the region are already contributing towards food security and indirectly alleviating poverty, thus helping the countries concerned in achieving the millennium development goals. Furthermore, they provide fresh fish to the local market for local consumers and the tourism industry. Note that in the region, basically all fresh fish landed comes from the artisanal sector, be it in Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, Comoros or Reunion island. Seychelles also have a fleet of semi industrial fishing boats contributing to the landings of fresh fish whilst in Mauritius a few semi industrial fishing boats are also landing fresh fish for local consumption. Hence, fishers are very much part and parcel of the development of the sector.
As an example, landings from the artisanal sector in Mauritius are valued at around 2.4 million US$ and in Comoros it is estimated at around 45.7 million US$. So you can see the impact it has on saving in foreign exchange.
Can you give us an insight on how you see the future of the organisation?
The FPAOI will in the longer-term link with other similar organisations such as the CAOPA, CNFO, ICSF and others. By sharing experiences, I think we can better serve the fishing communities of our region. we would also like to see a more sustainable artisanal fishery in the region and closer collaboration with the fisheries authorities and other RFMOs in the South West Indian Ocean.
The main issue I see is the funding of the organisation, but we are seeking solutions. I am confident that the FPAOI has much better days ahead. Our aim is to raise the level of fishers including their income and contribute more to the development of our respective countries and the region in the broader sense.
The task ahead is not easy, but we have a good team and determination to succeed.