Following EU proposals, SIOFA for the first time designated five areas as interim protected areas. These areas have been provisionally closed to trawling, and the scientific observer coverage for trap and line fishing increased from 20% to 100%, until science-based management plans have been developed for each of them. Work will now continue to strengthen the designation process of protected areas and allow meaningful and tailor-made management plans in SIOFA protected areas to be adopted and carried out.
The EU had also tabled several proposals to reinforce monitoring, control and surveillance. As a result, SIOFA decided to develop a vessel monitoring system by 2020 and to introduce entry-exit reports for all SIOFA registered vessels moving in and out of the Agreement area. In addition, the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing was strengthened, with new provisions introducing the cross-listing of IUU vessels across regional fisheries management organisations.
In a bid to strengthen SIOFA’s effectiveness, and based on a joint proposal from Australia and the EU, parties agreed to introduce a compliance monitoring scheme. This is an important step towards improving compliance with SIOFA conservation and management measures. Parties also agreed to amend the rules on data provision, making scientific observer data compulsory. This will significantly improve SIOFA’s scientific work and strengthen the scientific advice underpinning its decision-making.
Finally, following an EU proposal, SIOFA adopted specific provisions for plastics disposal on board fishing vessels in accordance with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, MARPOL.
The European Union is actively promoting the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems worldwide. As for other aspects its fisheries policy, the EU generally bases its decisions on the best available scientific advice. In the recent SIOFA negotiations, there was a proposal to designate 12 areas as protected but this was not underpinned by advice from the SIOFAs Scientific Committee. Notwithstanding this the EU took a precautionary approach, and proposed the interim closure of five areas to bottom trawling and 100% observer coverage for other gears for which SIOFAs Scientific Committee had suggested not closure but the development of management measures. To further underpin marine protection in the future, SIOFAs scientific committee was at the same time tasked with clarifying the process for designating protected areas and developing area specific management plans
The Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) entered into force in June 2012. To date, SIOFA has nine Contracting Parties: Australia, the Cook Islands, the European Union, France on behalf of its Indian Ocean Territories, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Thailand. Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique and New Zealand are also signatories, but have not ratified it. The agreement aims to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the area’s fishery resources, and to promote the sustainable development of fisheries.