Ministers in agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have banded together to ensure that all 14 countries within the collective adhere to the stipulations of the organisation’s protocol on fisheries. The aim of this is to harmonise the countries’ domestic fisheries legislations.
While the protocol was formally instated in 2001, nearly 21 years later not all countries have enforced it.
The agreement is expected to help the conservation and sustainable use of living aquatic resources and aquatic ecosystems within the countries’ jurisdictions, and it includes several articles that address cross-cutting concerns including inland water resource management.
The production of fish has increased due to the expansion of aquacultural practice in several member states, with Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia at the top of the list. In 2020, the region reported a 100 950 metric ton increase in aquaculture production, and the per capita fish consumption per person has increased by 11 kilograms per person.
“As part of the implementation of the SADC Regional Aquaculture Strategy, 12 member states have implemented national aquaculture programmes in line with the regional strategy, resulting in the increase in aquaculture production,” the SADC said.
“Fisheries are a vital oceanic and aquatic resource that forms the core of the blue economy in the region. Besides wild catch, there has been phenomenal growth in fish farming in SADC. While adoption of aquaculture is growing over time due to increasing demand for fish and fish products, people in the region view aquaculture as a sector for gainful employment and self-enterprise.”
More than a million people benefit indirectly from the sector, which employs an average of 145 000 people. The average per capita fish consumption of 11 kilograms per person accounts for 16% of total animal protein and 5% of overall protein intake. As a result, fisheries make a considerable contribution to food and nutrition security in the region.
The majority, if not all SADC member states, have abundant fisheries and aquatic plants that could be used to boost the blue economy.
The importance of the SADC’s Protocol on Fisheries
“The blue economy may warrant a significant departure from the conventional fishing practices and regulations in the SADC Region. In addition, this may necessitate changes in the legal and institutional structures for enabling a smooth realisation of blue economy goals. To optimise benefits from the fisheries and aquaculture, SADC heads of state endorsed the SADC Protocol on Fisheries in 2001.
“The protocol aims to promote responsible and sustainable use of the living aquatic resources and aquatic ecosystems of interest to state parties, in order to promote and enhance food security and human health; safeguard the livelihood of fishing communities; generate economic opportunities from nationals in the region; ensure that future generations benefit from these renewable resources; and alleviate poverty with the ultimate objective of its eradication.”
The ministers are urging development partners to continue working with SADC governments to implement sustainable fisheries and aquaculture projects. These include the African Development Bank, Water Research Commission, WorldFish and the European Union.