The Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) is a global multi-stakeholder partnership that seeks to increase transparency and participation for more sustainability in marine fisheries. It provides governments, all kinds of participants in the fishing industry and civil society with an international framework for credible quality information about national fisheries. It promotes informed public debate about sector policies and supports the long-term contribution of the sector to national economies and the well-being of citizens and the viability of companies. A webinar on 14 April 2021 served to introduce a wider public to achievements so far and announce the forthcoming national reports of the Seychelles and Mauritania.

Organised together with the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) in Austria, the webinar featured four panelists who spoke on experiences in the fight against corruption in the fishing sector and what can be done through greater transparency to encourage law-abiding behaviours. Moderated by Sven Biermann, Executive Director of FiTI, Seychelles, the speakers were:

Theo Chiviru is the Regional Lead for Africa and the Middle East at the Open Government Partnership, which is a platform of currently 78 governments. They commit to develop national action plans for enhanced transparency, accountability andparticipation co-developed by public officials and representatives of more than 4000 civil society organisations. The principal eligibility criteria for participation are that countries demonstrate disclosure of information essential to ensure transparency of governance and that liberty space is provided to civil society organisations. Together with Sven Biermann, Theo underlined how important it is for actors in the fisheries sector to examine and learn from the experiences in other social and economic spaces to overcome the bad image the sector has meanwhile acquired as a result of high levels of IUU fishing and corruption.

Dr. Jude Bijoux, Managing Director at Fisheries and Marine Consultancy Services, Seychelles, started with a snapshot description of the island country in the Indian Ocean with only about 90,000 inhabitants, but a huge Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximately 1.3 million km2 and a fleet of huge tuna purse seiners of different nationalities operating out of Port Victoria. Local fish supplies are ensured primarily through the small-scale fisheries which creates employment and is very much part of the local culture. His work in support of compiling the FiTI report of the Seychelles was made easier by the availability of good catch data and an intimate knowledge of many of the responsible people in various positions. Producing transparency reports is a new experience. It was therefore important to involve stakeholders from the beginning and keep it all simple in order to make the report readable and informative. Challenges remain as, e.g., the vessel registry is not complete and published.

Dr. Moustapha Kebe, Fisheries and Aquaculture Expert, Senegal, with long experience in the region as a research economist, reported on the challenging task to compile the first FiTI report for Mauritania together with local colleagues and stakeholders. The country's EEZ of 234,000 km2 incorporates the National Banc d'Arguin Park established in 1976. This World Heritage Site is a major site for migratory birds and breeding birds, including flamingos, pelicans and terns. The "Code de pêche" is the basic policy document determining the governance of the sector. Resource management is through a system of concessions at national and international levels. While a World Bank project helped to establish a statistical unit to produce timely data about the sector, it is challenging to get up-to-date reliable data after 2017/18. Work on the report is ongoing.

Béatrice Gorez, Coordinator at Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements, Belgium, denounced the lack of transparency characteristic of the operation of foreign fleets in the waters of West African countries. A regional public registers of fishing vessels is badly missing in order to determine beneficial ownership of vessels operating with or without licences in the region. Among European vessels Spain, Italy and Greece continued their presence. Latvian vessels, some flying the Cameroonian flag were also operating there. Turkey had developed operations in the last few years, but China trumped them all since at least a decade, often flying local flags or flags of convenience. Their openly fraudulent catch declarations seriously undermined attempts at resource management. One of the biggest challenges affecting particularly Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania was the explosive expansion of fishmeal factories. They compete with the local food value chains and redirect increasing quantities of small pelagics to fishmeal and oil for feeds, all the while these resources are already overharvested and suffer from climate change effects. The developments were reaching crisis point. Unfortunately, lack of transparency and transgression of existing rules, e.g. for reserving a six mile coastal strip exclusively for domestic small-scale fishers in other African countries, such as Liberia and Madagascar, was very widespread. Greater transparency would be a step in the right direction.

Sven Biermann moderated the ensuing discussion and concluded by drawing attention to the imminent publication of the reports by Seychelles and Mauritania and the availability of a series of informative briefings to raise awareness about the key definitions and factors to promote greater transparency and more effective management of marine fisheries. We are following the initiative since a while. More information on their own website.