Increasing demands from consumers and retailers for traceability of fish products, alongside the introduction of catch documentation schemes (CDS) to deter illegal fishing and to prevent illegally caught fish entering markets, such as the European Union (EU) and United States markets, have placed new requirements on states to verify the legality of catch along the value chain.

A well-designed and duly implemented CDS detects all laundering attempts. However, the CDS supporting tools and mechanisms that need to be in place in the different countries along the supply chain are complex, and success relies on national competent authorities being able to detect the origin of fraud within national supply chains – which are often not covered by CDS.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, in cooperation with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF), held a two-day capacity building workshop in Namibia on the 19th and 20th November, to address some of the identified fisheries governance shortcomings of countries that export seafood to the EU. Representatives from 14 SADC Member States, as well as representatives from the Namibian Fisheries Observer Agency and the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations attended the workshop.

Dr Sam Burgess, WWF, noted that the Voluntary Guidelines for Catch Documentation Schemes were adopted by the FAO Committee on Fisheries in July 2017 and encouraged their implementation to prevent trade in products from IUU fishing while minimizing technical barriers to trade. Dr Burgess stated, “Cooperation and transparency are critical in the fight against illegal fishing.”

The unilateral CDS, called a catch certification system (CCS) put in place by the European Union in 2010, covers most wild-caught marine finfish traded into the EU market, and requires products to be covered by catch certificates validated under the scheme by flag state authorities. The workshop focussed on EU requirements and the steps needed to ensure compliance.

Sandy Davies, Stop Illegal Fishing, commented, “This workshop provided a valuable opportunity for the countries of southern Africa to understand the importance of CDSs and the EU CCS for accessing international markets and for ensuring compliance. By considering roles and minimal requirements of flag, coastal, port, processing and end-market states we are better able to prioritise national actions and partners.”

Francisco Blaha, an international expert in CDS, led sessions on the role of States to determine the legality of the catch, the EU catch certification scheme, the validation of catch certificates and necessary operational procedures. He commented, “A CDS is not a forensic tool, such as a genetic test applied to a sample, to establish whether a consignment actually contains the claimed species of fish. A well designed CDS will forestall laundering because automated accounting routines can trigger an alarm, or can deny the issue of a certificate when mass-balance integrity rules are breached.”

Following a series of interactive presentations on CDS in general and implementation of the EU IUU Regulation, participating countries described the challenges they faced in implementing CDSs, which included, poor interagency cooperation, limited financial resources, and limited institutional and human capacity. The workshop formed recommendations for the regional processes and for the European Commission, as part of ongoing efforts to improve implementation of the EU CCS.

The workshop was held with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) to  WWF, under the four year project entitled “Sustainable Fisheries – Supporting Livelihoods, Equity, and Ecosystems in South Western Indian Ocean (SWIO) Communities” and the FAO.