Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
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Making a difference: how fisheries contribute to sustainable development around the globe

Making a difference: how fisheries contribute to sustainable development around the globe

The European Union is the world's largest donor of development aid. But while a majority of citizens believe such aid is vitally important, some 50% admit they don’t know where EU aid goes. What exactly does the EU use this money for? What types of projects does it support?

To answer these questions and better showcase its development work, the European Union has designated 2015 as the European Year of Development. This is no coincidence: 2015 is the target year for reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals, set back in 2000. Just last month, the international community adopted a follow-up framework, the Sustainable Development Goals, at the UN General Assembly in New York.

© European Union
Fishing quay under construction in the Seychelles co-financed by the EU. See more below.


The EU's contribution to these global goals is substantial. It is firmly committed to eradicating poverty worldwide, and to doing so in a way that promotes sustainable solutions for future generations. This strategy has proven effective in tackling poverty and human rights abuses – but it also applies to fisheries, as highlighted during the European Year of Development's thematic month of food security in October.

Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture ensure food and nutrition security in some of the world's poorest regions. In West Africa, Asian coastal countries and many small island states, the proportion of total dietary protein from fish can reach 60% or more. Fish also contains micronutrients and fatty acids that are essential for vulnerable parts of populations like children and pregnant women.

Moreover, fisheries and trade in fisheries products contribute to alleviating poverty. Around the world, some 660 to 880 million people – 12% of the world population – depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihood. Fish represent one of the most traded food commodities, with about 40% of fishery and aquaculture production entering international trade and a yearly export value of more than €115 billion. Trade of fish and fishery products provides an important source of income for many countries, particularly developing countries.

However, more needs to be done to ensure that fisheries around the world are equitable, profitable, and sustainable. And since the EU is not only the world's largest aid donor, but also the world’s largest market for seafood, it has a clear responsibility to support developing countries in tackling existing challenges.

Since 2007, the EU's development policy has financed more than 50 projects in the field of fisheries and aquaculture, totalling €230 million over the period 2007-2014. Projects range from national to global, with 50% in Africa and the rest in Asia and Pacific. (Some of the EU's fisheries success stories are outlined in the box accompanying this article.)

The EU's fisheries policy is also doing its bit to protect and preserve the ocean's resources for future generations: both at home by focussing on scientific advice and an ecosystem approach, and abroad by bringing these principles to Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

Moreover, the EU has established partnerships with developing countries to secure fish stocks for future generations and to stamp out illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements cover 7% of total EU catches, with a budget of €135m a year. 22% of that EU investment goes directly to technical support measures, for instance to modernise and upgrade developing countries' fisheries and to tackle the scourge of IUU fishing, which destroys the livelihoods of honest fishermen.

In fisheries, as in its development policy, the EU is leading the way towards greater sustainability and more international cooperation. In doing so, it is paving the way for an inclusive, fair, transparent and law-based exploitation of fisheries resources – to ensure healthy people and healthy seas, everywhere.

Indian Ocean Surveillance

In spite of its distance from the European mainland, the European Union is playing a key role in surveillance in the southwest Indian Ocean, helping to monitor and control fishing activities in the region.

Since 2007, in collaboration with the Indian Ocean Commission, the EU has participated in the Regional Plan for Fisheries Surveillance in the Southwest Indian Ocean in order to fight more effectively against IUU fishing. IUU fishing is a major problem in the region: according to the Secure Fisheries project it accounts for 32% of fishing in the East Indian Ocean and 18% in the west.

By maximising sea and surveillance capacity at a regional level, introducing vessel monitoring systems and getting inspection personnel from the coastal states countries of the Indian Ocean region to work together in integrated teams, ocean surveillance has been greatly improved, leading to the detention of increased numbers of vessels fishing illegally in the southwest Indian Ocean. This support has been enhanced by the network of fisheries partnership agreements in the Indian Ocean (Madagascar, Comoros, the Seychelles and Mauritius), each providing capacity building by their respective Fishing Monitoring Centres and in the case of Madagascar, efficient air and naval control.



The Seychelles are seeing the real economic benefits of its Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement with the EU, worth €15.2 million over a six-year period. One €3.2 million project has led to the construction of a 120-metre quay on the Île du Port in Victoria, which can take landings from several large tuna vessels simultaneously. This enables the Seychelles to retain its strategic role as the EU fleet’s main landing and transhipping port for tuna in the Indian Ocean.

The EU has also co-funded a long-line training vessel to train Seychelles Maritime Training School students in navigation and fishing techniques, allowing them to better target more valuable species of fish. Moreover, to encourage local entrepreneurs to get involved in fish processing, the EU co-funded the construction of three fish processing facilities.



Julienne Razafindrafara is a former crab fisher who lives in one of the four villages chosen for a pilot scheme under the Smartfish programme financed by the EU. Under the programme, new methods have been introduced so that Mangrove crabs are captured alive in the Mahajanga region of Madagascar.

“Only a year ago we lost half the catch after we’d caught the crabs,” Julienne says. The crabs are popular in Asian markets, but living crabs sell for twice the price of frozen ones. Julienne works with 60 fishers who are supplied with tanks to selectively trap large crabs without damaging them, as well as specially designed boats to transport the catch to Mahajanga.

“The new material supplied by the EU has significantly reduced our losses,” she says. “I was a crab fisher myself and I can tell you this has changed our lives.”


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June  2017 - Issue 75
March  2017 - Issue 74
November 2016 - Issue 73
August 2016 - Issue 72