June 11-14 saw all eight members of the FISH-i Africa Task Force meet in Mauritius. Opening the meeting the Honourable Premdut Koonjoo, Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands played tribute to FISH-i Africa stating that “the Fish-I Africa task force will help us to meet SDG 14, which calls for an end to overfishing and IUU fishing by 2020. Mauritius has pledged to make the ocean economy benefit the nation as a whole, and of course this means having a sustainable fisheries resource. We are chalking out a route map to end IUU fishing in this part of the world and FISH-i Africa is a vital part of that plan. It brings us together to share information and act as a region, making us stronger and more effective in fighting IUU fishing.”

Having joined FISH-i Africa in December 2015 representatives from the Federal Republic of Somalia participated in their first Task Force meeting. Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Said Ghalib, welcomed the opportunity for Somalia to cooperate with its neighbours. “We are facing many obstacles in our efforts to overcome IUU fishing, being part of IOTC and FISH-i are important steps for us and will assist us as we introduce new systems and procedures to regulate our fisheries. We are already benefitting from participating at this meeting, we have been able to discuss specific vessels who we think are operating illegally in our waters which will help us take action.”

For the first time the Task Force welcomed Dr Chumnarn Pongsri, Director of Fisheries Foreign Affairs Division, Thailand enabling the strengthening of links and communications with this important flag State. Dr Pongsri presented the Task Force with details of the efforts that Thailand is making to reform their fisheries sector. Applauding the work of FISH-i Africa Dr Pongsri commented that “I am very impressed with the way you are working together, I hope that FISH-i Africa is able to proceed and that it will result in an end to IUU fishing.”

Other observers at the open session included Dr Motseki Hlatshwayo, Fisheries Advisor with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Andrew Read, Fisheries Team Leader with Growth, Enterprise, Employment & Livelihoods (GEEL) and Mr Deon Burger, from INTERPOL’s Environmental Security Sub-Directorate. Stressing the importance that INTERPOL attach to crime in the fisheries sector Deon commented “the sanctions around illegal fishing are generally quite low but we are also able to look at all the associated crimes that are being committed by illegal fishing operators, we focus on crimes such as fraud, corruption, document forgery and money laundering to ensure and end to IUU fishing.”

Speaking at the end of the meeting Mr Per Erik Bergh, Stop Illegal Fishing, congratulated the Task Force on the progress being made. “ This meeting has demonstrated the strong cooperation and exchange of information and ideas within our region. We have been able to celebrate the success that is being made with increasing numbers of our investigations resulting in enforcement actions. It’s great to have the opportunity to welcome Somalia, a new member to the Task Force to the meeting and it is exciting to establish contact with Thailand, an important flag State in the FISH-i region.”