By HENRY OWINO(Senior Correspondent)

Ecofish is in Africa countries to support its blue economy and enhance sustainable fisheries in the region.

Ecofish is a cross-regional initiative of the European Union (EU) that supports both inland and marine sustainable Fisheries in the Eastern Africa (EA), South Africa (SA) and Indian Ocean (IO) regions.

The contribution of Sustainable Fisheries to the Blue Economy of EA, SA, IO has since been popularly known as Ecofish. It is financed by EU to the tune of EUR 28 million for the next 5 years.

The overall objective of the Ecofish Programme is to enhance equitable economic growth by promoting sustainable fisheries in the EA-SA-IO region.

Although the ultimate beneficiaries are eligible member states of EA-SA-IO regions, the entry points falls under the following categories: The five Duly Mandated Regional Organizations (DMROs) namely COMESA, EAC, IGAD, IOC and SADC.

The other four entry points include two inland Regional Fisheries Management Organizations namely Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) and Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA). One Marine Regional Fisheries Management Organization thus  Indian Ocean Trade Commission(IOTC) or two Marine Regional Fisheries Bodies, SWIOFC and potentially, SOIFA and finally other regional fisheries-related partner agencies such as the AU-IBAR, FAO, UNEP and  many more.

Each of these entry point organizations would receive EUR 2million for implementation of Ecofish activities in their regions.

On an average one country of the EA-SA-IO region is a member of 2 to 3 DMROs and 10 countries are not a member of any RFB. (Seven countries are landlocked and 3 coastal countries in the Red Sea). Apart from 3, Ecofish would directly benefit 12 countries only.

According to Dr Sunil Sweenarain, IOC Technical Coordinator and Team Leader this has been reorganized to accommodate eligible countries. La Reunion/France and South Africa are encouraged to join in with their own resources.

“It is critical to assess the marine façade of the EA-SA-OI region, the structural and functional capacities of the various regional fisheries organizations to ensure effectiveness in services delivery,”Dr Sweenarain cautioned.

Dr Sweenarain said Ecofish is mainstreaming the principles of global sustainability or the Triple –Win thus Economic Efficiency, Shared Prosperity and Environment Stewardship. This includes climate change adaption in the shared inland and marine fisheries of the EA-SA-OI region in an integrative or synergistic way.

Ecofish intends to build on the achievements, work-in progress and learning investments of the EU funded Smartfish, Fisheries Governance and cross-sector programmes such as MASE as well as other regional initiatives for unleashing the UN Agenda 2030 or the Africa Agenda 2063-No Poverty-No Hunger and Nobody is left behind.

“The two Agenda were presented as one of the 21 EU Flagships for bluing fisheries sector at the World Ocean Conference 2017,”Dr Sweenarain recalls.

Dr Sweenarain explained the overall objective of the Ecofish Programme is to enhance economic growth by promoting sustainable fisheries in the EA-SA-IO region.

However, the specific objective is to support sustainable management and development of fisheries in order to contribute to poverty alleviation, food and nutrition security while addressing climate resilience and enhancing marine biodiversity.

According to Mrs Carla Osorio, Head of Cooperation Delegations of the EU to the Republic of Mauritius, Ecofish is meant to complement several other EU projects targeting ocean governance, marine conservation, maritime security, anti-piracy actions through navy operations as well as Blue Economy related projects.

This notwithstanding fisheries partnership agreements the EU signed with others countries such as Seychelles and Mauritius, with Madagascar expected to join as coastal fisheries are targeted.

“This reflects high commitments EU puts on fisheries,” Mrs. Osorio stated. The commitment is not limited to inland or marine for food security only but extends to income generating revenues for the communities and commercial opportunities for export to markets.

Mauritius is the headquarters for EU projects on Ecofish activities being implemented in Africa. Mrs. Osorio clarified that Ecofish is not Smartfish program since it is designed to focus on sustainable fisheries at regional level.

Ecofish strictly reflects the aid modalities and strategies of the European Unions. For example inclusive with impact-related, cost effective and pro-active that is oriented towards sustainable changes by enhancing a cross-regional impact.

Ecofish programme does not aim at substituting Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) to any regional Fisheries Organizations. This is despite having definitively key role to play as influential organization throughout the Indian Ocean. The IOC is a strategic partner of the EU.

“We deeply think that IOC is able to take lessons from this project and improve its capacities to better support the Member States and neighboring coastal states of the Indian Ocean,” Mrs. Osorio said.

Africa has enough resources and good policies but the problem is implementing them to work. They do not walk the talks or turn the thoughts into practicality.

Ecofish is determined to systematically avoid overlap or duplication of investments in the regional fisheries surveillance operations. It will therefore focus on implementation of the strategic actions work plans.