Report on stock assessment in selected fisheries outside EU waters which are important for the EU long distant fleet

One of the key objectives of the FarFish project is: “To advance knowledge and collate data related to biological characteristics of the main fish stocks in selected fisheries outside EU waters that are important for the EU fleet, and to evaluate the relevance and applicability of appropriate stock assessment methods for these fisheries.” In this context, the review and evaluation of stock assessment models used in the different Case Studies and the status of the stocks is one of the primary objectives of the project. The FarFish project has therefore published a report, which contains a review the stock assessment carried out for the target species in each of the project’s case study areas.

The full report is available here

The report concludes that the tuna fisheries, which are managed through ICCAT and IOTC, has sufficient data to allow for a wide range stock assessment, ranging from catch and effort based Surplus Production models to the state of the art Stock Synthesis approach that can accommodate both age and size structure in the population and multiple stock sub-areas.

In the case of demersal and small pelagic species assessed at the regional level through CECAF and FAO, a more limited range of stock assessment methods and models are used, namely variations of Surplus Production models, and in some cases length-based cohort analysis and yield per recruit. There are few examples of the use of data-limited methods; the exception being the Catch at MSY (CMSY) approach developed by Martell and Froese (2013) and used by ICCAT and CECAF for some species.

The status of tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic shows a mixed picture. For some species, mainly by-catch species but also a target species (skipjack tuna), no formal assessment is possible due largely to lack of suitable data and/or to the characteristics of the species (skipjack tuna). Only two species (swordfish and blue shark) are considered not overfished or subject to overfishing, while half the other assessed species are considered subject to overfishing.

In the Indian Ocean, based on the same reference points used by ICCAT, bigeye tuna, skipjack, swordfish and blue shark are considered subject to overfishing. Yellowfin tuna and striped marlin are considered overfished/subject to overfishing, while blue marlin and indo-pacific sailfish are assessed as not overfished but subject to overfishing.

For the 26 demersal species/stocks assessed by CECAF/FAO, half of the 19 that could be assessed were judged to be over-exploited, while seven were considered fully exploited and only three not fully exploited. Due to insufficient data, inconclusive results were obtained for seven stocks, although additional information from fisheries and scientific surveys suggests that many are overexploited.

For the Southwest Atlantic, limited assessment is possible due to lack of RFMO and the fact that the EU fleet accounts for a fraction of the non-EU long-distance fleets for which no data is available. For the Southeast Atlantic, lack of data has hampered stock assessment for some species. However, the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) has put in place a number of management measures and harvest control rules for some of the target species such as Patagonian toothfish, alfonsino, and deep-sea red crab.

The review report shows that lack of suitable data for classical stock assessment methods is an underlying theme in all the case studies and that to date, there has been limited use of data-limited models or approaches applied. For example, in the case of Mauritania and Senegal the number of demersal species/stocks (19) for which there is some kind of stock assessment is a fraction of the total number of commercial demersal species and stocks (more than 100 species/stocks). For these other data-limited or data-poor species FarFish can provide the tools to carry out stock assessment based on the DLM tools package which has minimal requirements (catch time series and life history parameters). FarFish aims to identify sources of data, especially time series of fisheries independent catch per unit effort data from research surveys, that the case study partners can use to assess these species. In the case of by-catch species of pelagic fisheries (Seychelles and Cabo Verde) FarFish has actually compiled data for selected species that are not currently assessed by ICCAT or IOTC and these are used to illustrate the DLM package that has been developed. Thus, based on data that is mainly available from time series of research institute national surveys, along with life history parameters, FarFish can play an important role in showing how DLM can be used to carry out stock assessment of the many species for which there is currently no assessment, thereby contributing to improved management and sustainable exploitation.

Description of EU long distant fleet value chains

The FarFish project is designed around six case study areas in which the European fleet is actively engaged in fishing activities. These are Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, Seychelles, and the international high-seas areas in the southeast and southwest Atlantic. In the context of geographic, economic and cultural diversity, the project focuses on gaining insights into the biological, economic and social aspects of the fisheries. As part of that work, FarFish has published a report that provides a generalised mapping and description of the seafood value chains for the six case studies covered by the project. The report is available here.

The 160-page report provides details on catches, fleets, landings, processing, distribution channels and value chains. A brief summary for each of the case studies is presented below.

Cape Verde

The EU-Cape-Verde SFPA for tuna and tuna-like species entered into force in 2007 and was renewed in 2019. The current agreement will be active until 2024. The fishing industry of Cape Verde is of national importance, with roughly 1,800 vessels (mainly artisanal) and 6,300 fishers in 2016. The national fleet landed roughly 9,500 tonnes in 2016 (of which nearly 60% tuna) – roughly 50% more than the reference catch under the SFPA. Large areas of the Cape Verde EEZ are unexploited by the national fleet, and the SFPA gives purse seiners, longline and pole-and-line vessels from Spain, France and Portugal access to Cape Verdean waters. In the years 2014-2016 the average annual catch under the SFPA was roughly 20% above the reference tonnage (7,285 tonnes), of which skipjack tuna was the most important species (58%) and tuna in total accounted for 70%. Spanish vessels were responsible for 90% of all catch, and purse seiners took roughly 50%. The second most important species was blue shark.

Data from Global Fishing Watch show that there are more vessels from other nations than the EU licensed vessels, especially Japanese showing greater efforts than the Spanish fleet, but also Chinese. Landings to Cape Verde also include landings from other nationalities, but most of the catch under the SFPA seems to find its way into Mindelo, even though large shares are transhipped, especially sharks. Foreign vessels’ landings to Cape Verde exceed the catch under the SFPA. With Mindelo as the main landing facility, which was supported by the Spanish Government for cold storage facilities, two processors receive the main quantities of fish: Frescomar and Antunlo CV. Both are Spanish owned. Frescomar produces canned tuna and mackerel and employs 800 people. Atunlo CV was established in 2015, produces frozen tuna and tuna loins and employs 300 people. Together they account for 80% of Cape Verde’s export of seafood products.

Most of the catch landed in Mindelo goes to export – before or after processing – be it tuna or sharks, which more or less enter the regular value chains for these commodities. Much of the tuna, together with most shark, swordfish and shortfin mako caught within the Cape Verdean EEZ by EU vessels, is landed in Mindelo but exported directly. This is transhipped from Mindelo in big containers, mainly to Vigo (Spain), where swordfish is sold to local companies (Fandicosta, Eduardo Vieira, Hermanos Ibañez).

Some issues regarding management practices, sustainability and food security have been noted by scholars. Among these are a growing concern regarding discards and reporting of shark catches. Moreover, criticism has been raised regarding vessel tracking systems governed by the Cape Verdean authorities, whereas food security – in the sense of product edibility and hygienic standards in processing – seems to be under good control.


The current agreement was renewed in 2019 and has a 5-year duration. It only concerns black hake and tuna fishing. The hake fishery remains of minor importance, since the agreement only allows two trawlers to operate in Senegalese waters at the same time, for a total of 2,000 tonnes maximum per year. These operations took place along the edge of the continental shelf, between the isobaths of 100m and 1,000m. Although the fishing pressure from EU vessels on black hake is not very important, the development of the local fishery on this species is causing recent overexploitation. Concerning the black hake, the agreement is fully used by the EU with the Spanish trawlers landing their catch in Spain (Vigo), where hake will join the traditional Spanish sector for local consumption.

About tuna fishing, the three species encountered (yellowfin/listao, skipjack/albacore and bigeye) are fished by tuna fishers, but skipjack tunas are the most targeted. There are eight EU pole-and-line vessels (7 Spanish and 1 French) fishing for tunas in Senegal, for a total of 4,000 tonnes. The utilization rate of the number of vessels according to the agreement is optimal. They are all based in Dakar, where they land their products. The tuna is stored for a part in refrigerated hangars and then shipped to Asia for processing and consumption. Another part provides the only cannery present in Dakar. EU tuna seiners fishing in Senegalese waters are not based in Senegal and do not focus on this fishing area. In fact, only 3,000 tons were fished by 10 boats, for a utilization rate of about 30-35%. These catches are then landed in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and more rarely in Tema (Ghana). The tunas are directly prepared and canned in the canning factories of Abidjan, for later shipment to Europe.


The EU-Mauritania SFPA agreement follows a suspension of the agreements between July 2014-December 2015. The current agreement entered into force in 2015 and has since then been renewed twice, with duration until November 2021. This agreement concerns several categories, types of fisheries and species. The main categories are small pelagics frozen on board (cat.6: around 90,000 tons in 2017), tuna seiners (Cat.4: around 14,000 tons) and black hake trawlers (Cat 2b: frozen , about 6,000 tons, Cat 2: fresh, about 3,400 tons). Categories 5 (Tuna pole-and-line vessels and longliners: 5,000 tonnes in 2017), 1 (vessels specialized in crustaceans: 1,300 tons) and 3 (fishing for demersal species: 2,600 tons) are less important. Finally, category 7 (small fresh pelagics) is non-existent, despite the authorizations. The exploitation rate of this agreement varies according to the categories. However, it remains low overall (only the hake fishery is at the maximum level). In addition, the fishing effort has globally decreased, except for categories 2 and 3. The reduction of the authorized fishing zone and its limit further and further from the coasts has forced some fleets to give up in this country. In addition, the reduction in stocks for category 6 may be responsible for the decline in catches and fishing effort for this category. The recent increase in fishing pressure on black hakes (with the creation of the new category 2b among other things) results in exploitation that seems unsustainable. For categories 1 and 3, stocks are considered compatible with greater fishing pressure. Yellowfin and bigeye tunas seem overused, while skipjack tunas are underexploited. Catches made by the EU fleet only very rarely end in Mauritania. Most of the catches are integrated in the Gulf of Guinea countries’ sectors or in the EU sectors (Spanish and the Baltic countries’ in particular).


The Seychelles tuna fishery is a principal contributor to national GDP, exports and government revenues, although it generates less employment than its semi-industrial and artisanal fisheries counterparts. Its growth coincided with the delineation of national EEZs in the mid-1980s, with the first EU FPA signed about the same time. In the case of the long-line tuna fishery, just over half (54%) of the 157 vessels authorised to fish in Seychelles waters are flagged to Taiwan, while the nationally-flagged contingent has almost doubled over a decade to reach 29%. The purse seine fleet is much smaller (49 vessels), with the fleet split largely between vessels licenced under the FPA (59%, principally Spanish and French) and the nationally-flagged fleet (27%). Licensing would appear to be a lucrative activity, with FTI (2018) suggesting this brought in around US$9.83 million (just over half – 52% – coming from EU sources) in 2016.

Purse seine catches of yellowfin (despite the recent introduction of IOTC quotas) and skipjack dominate, with Port Victoria acting as the major hub not only for vessels seining in Seychelles waters, but also those seining across the whole WIO region. While a large proportion of this catch (Tall [2016] suggests 85%) is directly transhipped, much of the residual is processed by the Indian Ocean Cannery – owned since 2010 by the Thai multinational Thai Union Frozen Products Co. Ltd – in Port Victoria. Although the cannery has a peak capacity level of around 350 tonnes a day, current production levels are of the order of 85,000 metric tonnes p.a., as a consequence of the 15% reduction in yellowfin catches mandated by the IOTC in 2017.

The processed product, largely canned tuna, is then primarily exported to the EU. In 2016 canned tuna revenues were around 3,500 million Rupiahs (around US$260 million) and accounted for 55% of the country’s total export revenues. The main European markets for Seychelles tuna, which is retailed under the John West and Petit Navire labels, are France (40-45% of tuna exports by value), the UK (25-30%) and Italy (15-20%). Although the Seychelles share of the total EU tuna market is small, nevertheless, it is the major ACP supplier.

Although there are robust management mechanisms in place to offer oversight of the tuna value chain, and product traceability is high, at the harvesting level there remain concerns about the long-term sustainability of the highly migratory IOTC tuna fishery given the level of IUU fishing. Quotas have, as a consequence, been introduced for Indian Ocean yellowfin. This is, however, likely to have minimal impact upon national food security given the fishery is primarily set up to service the export market.

The SW-Atlantic area (FAO Area 41)

The SW-Atlantic area (FAO Area 41) focused on in the FarFish project is recognized as high-seas and the EU mixed fishery in the area is not subjected to any international agreements or governed by any RFMO. The total catch volumes in the area have fluctuated significantly year by year, but the peaked volume was reached at 2.43 million tons in 2015. The target species have primarily been hake, rock-cod, southern cod, red-shrimp and squid caught almost solely by Argentina, Brazil, and Spanish vessels. In recent year there have been fleets from countries such as China, Taiwan and Korea fishing in the area as well. The multi-species fisheries in the SW-Atlantic include nearly one hundred fish species. There are however only four functional groups that represent 76% of the total catches, including medium benthopelagic (length of 30-89 cm), medium demersal (30-89 cm), cephalopods and small pelagics (<30cm). Three major species caught in the area consist of Argentine hake, Argentine red shrimp and Argentine shortfin squid. Discarding occurs in this area and is believed to be quite high. It is estimated that discarding represents 15-25% of the total catch volumes, giving an average rate of 18%. Perch-like species are the most discarded species, accounting for 40% of the total discarding volumes; while shark, ray and invertebrate species account for about 30% in total.

The catches of the EU fleets (including Russia and other former Soviet-Union countries) in the SW-Atlantic have decreased substantially over the last four decades. The EU catches reached a peak at 560 thousand tonnes in 1988 but has experienced significant decline thereafter. The average catch volume of the EU fleet in the last decade (2007-2016) have been around 135 tons per year, of which Spain represents over 70% of the catches. Argentine hake, longtail southern cod, Antarctic rockcod and Argentine shortfin squid are the major species caught by EU fleets in the area, accounting for around 63% of total catches over the last decade. Fishing activities by the EU fleet in the SW-Atlantic high-seas areas (Spanish and UK vessels) are mainly carried out in areas of the continental slope that extends onto the high-seas between the Argentinean EEZ, the Falkland Islands Outer Conservation Zone (FOCZ) and the 300-meter depth contour.

Argentine hake (M. hubbsi) is the major fish species harvested in the SW-Atlantic and is only hake species distributed in the area, embracing southern Brazilian, Argentinean and Uruguayan waters. The species lives in a temperature cold Sub-Antarctic water related to Maldinas/Falkland Current system. The main fishing regions that the Argentine hake is most abundant in are the Argentine-Uruguayan Common Fishing Zone (AUCFZ), Falkland/Malvinas Islands, and Brazilian waters.

Total catches of Argentine hake in the SW-Atlantic (area 41) steadily increased from 25,300 tonnes in 1950 (equivalent to 11 $million) to 180,800 tonnes (762,7 $million) in 1966. Catches were at first all taken by the coastal States, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. During the 1960s the Argentine hake began to be exploited by foreign fleets. Following the exceptionally high catches of hake reported in 1995 (942,600 tonnes), catches declined to 311,000 tonnes in 2000. The total catch from this region then increased steadily to 606,800 tonnes in 2004, and then decrease again to 373,300 tonnes in 2014. The discarding of Argentine hake is estimated to be around 11%, consisting mainly of juvenile by-catch.

Before the 1980’s, over 80% of total catches of Argentine hake in the SW-Atlantic was by Soviet Union fleets. Since 1990s, the hake has primarily been caught by coastal nations and Spain. The total landings of Argentine hake in 2016 was 352,000 tonnes; of which 80% was landed by Argentinian fleets, 15% by Spanish vessels, 3% by Uruguay, only 2% by other national fleets (UK, Falkland Isl., and Brazil). Nearly 100% of Argentine hake are caught by industrial vessels, as there is no local artisanal fishing fleet in all three main fishing zones, i.e. the Falkland Island, Argentinean–Uruguayan Common Fishing Zone, and Brazilian water. The Argentine hake and its fisheries is one of the most important demersal fisheries in Latin America, especially for the Argentina, which involves over half of fishing fleets and contribute 40% of fisheries export of the country.

Hake fisheries including Argentine hake represent about 5% of the global white fish production. Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, and Chile are the major production countries and exported around 47% of their production to the EU market. Spain, Italy, Germany, Cameroon, Brazil, and USA are the main markets for hake products. Countries having high trade deficits of hake in 2017 include Spain (517 million USD), Italy (145 million USD), Portugal (58 million USD), France (50 million USD), Netherlands (23 million USD). It implies that these countries are the major market for consuming hake products. The countries having high hake surplus consists of Namibia (277 million USD), Argentina (181 million USD), South Africa (85 million USD), and UK (72 million USD), China (43 million USD), and Chile (40 million USD).

It is generally accepted that the hake resource in the SW-Atlantic is heavily exploited and in danger of collapsing. There are several indicators of concern: 1) Reliance of the fishery in recent years on the youngest fish indicates the decline of the hake stock; 2) A large percent of the 2 year-old fish is immature; ) Lack of older fish in both the population and the catches; 4) Fishing mortality has risen to levels causing growth overfishing, so effectively reducing yield. 5) Qualitative reports of extensive discarding of small 1- and 2-year-old fish owing to present harvesting practices; and 6) Hake is not a species that easily benefits from mesh-size selectivity control. Argentina hake (M. hubbsi) are abundant in three fishing grounds in the SW-Atlantic that are around Falkland/Malvivas Island, Argentina-Uruguay Common Fishing Zone and Brazilian waters. The supply chain of this species is affected by the regulations and governance structure imposed in these areas. It is recommended that an integrated approach among Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina appears to be the best way to achieve proper management of the shared southern stock of M. hubbsi (Vaz-dos-Santos & Schwingel, 2015).

Although fisheries are a very important sector for coastal countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and the SW is one major fishing zone, the domestic consumption represents only a small proportion of the total catch. For instance, national consumption of fish in Argentina represent only 10% of the total catch and only hake represents over 60% of local market. Most landings of Argentine fisheries are exported.

South East Atlantic international waters (FAO area 47)

Although covering a vast area, the non-tuna fisheries in the Southeast Atlantic are very limited. The EU fleet has not reported catches to SEAFO since 2007. From 2000 to 2007 there were sporadic landings of small quantities of armorhead, alfonsino and deep-sea crabs from the EU fleet. Also, other countries’ fleets have shown little activity in the area lately. Quotas are underutilized, indicating that the available fisheries in the area is of marginal profitability. Hence, the little interest also from the EU fleet. This is supported the little interest shown by vessels from other countries, especially with fewer fishing opportunities and lower crew wages.

Evaluation of the governance structures surrounding the EU long distant fleets fisheries

Among the outputs of the FarFish project is a report that evaluates the governance structures of the EU long-distance fisheries in the six case studies of the FarFish project. These case studies include two high-seas fisheries and four fisheries that are based on Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) between the EU and coastal states. All these fisheries are important for the fishing fleets of multiple EU countries or respond to the priorities of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The report focuses on different aspects of both the structural and actor conditions, focusing on monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) of the EU external fishing fleet. For each of the four SFPAs, the report presents the requirements set within the SFPAs, the legal framework and systems for MCS in the coastal state and their capacity. For the high-seas cases, the report presents the governing framework of the area where such is in place and the practice of managing the EU fleet. For all cases, challenges of and measures to mitigate by-catch, discard issues, and IUU fishing are presented. Lastly, the main findings on both achievements and identified challenges for the six case studies are summarised.

The full report is available here.
The main conclusions for the SFPA and high-seas fisheries are presented below.

Governance structures in SFPA fisheries

Despite the improved MCS of the EU distant water fishing fleet in recent years, the EU and its Member States have limited capacity to control this fleet. They are to a very high degree dependent on the fleets’ commitment to and compliance with established rules and regulation and the credibility of their self-reporting. In addition, they are also dependent on the MCS capacity of the SFPA partners and instruments of relevant RFMOs.

The SFPAs and accompanying protocol and annexes provide detailed rules and procedures for implementation of the agreements. This includes aspects of the licensing of EU vessels, catch reporting, technical measures, monitoring and control. In some cases, there has been a need for renegotiation (e.g. fishing opportunities and economic contribution in Mauritania) or new issues to be included when negotiating new agreements (e.g. the inclusion of sharks in Cabo Verde). In all the case study countries, institutions and legal framework for MCS of the national and foreign fishing fleets are established. The legislation is improving, where for instance Senegal adopted a new Maritime Fisheries Code in 2015 with the main objective to increase penalties against IUU fishing. Several of the SFPA countries are undergoing administrative reforms and how this will affect the monitoring and control of the fisheries of the foreign fleets remains to be seen.

The coastal states in all case studies face a lack of resources with regards to manpower, technical resources and infrastructure to properly manage and control these fisheries. For instance, Cabo Verde have several patrol vessels and aircrafts, but limited capacity to operate and keep them in operational condition. Several of these vessels have therefore been out of commission for long periods. There is also a general lack of resources to analyse catch data received from the EU fleet.

VMS is required in all the protocols but are not necessarily easily implemented. For example, the VMS of the EU vessels is not compatible with the VMS in Cabo Verde. ERS is also required, but in all the cases, the flag states struggle with the implementation. Therefore, the catch reporting still relies on manual logbooks. In general, the systems for both catch and position reporting are in place. In the cases where the vessels land their catch in ports in the coastal state, instead of bringing it to other ports, the MCS is improved by the SFPA country. In all the cases, more competence and resources are needed to analyse and verify the data collected. All SFPA cases, except for Cabo Verde, take part in an observer programme, either nationally or regionally.

Common for all the cases is that it is difficult to collect data on frequency of inspections and the control coverage. It has also been difficult to distinguish any possible differences between systems in place to monitor and control the national fishing fleet and those related to the foreign fleet through the documents. For this reason, it was difficult to assess whether the controls are adequate or not. In general, there seems to be a lack of resources regarding the controls and they are mainly focused on the national fishing fleet. Expanding the MCS functions to also cover the EU fleet or other foreign vessels is a significant drain on resources, thus complicating the matter of ensuring apt controls. The potential for ensuring adequate controls in the coastal states is considerably better if the catches are either landed or transshipped in a port of the said coastal state.

IUU fishing is an area of concern for all SFPA case studies, though the specific issues differ. In the case of Senegal, the lack of control of artisanal fishing is highlighted, Seychelles emphasizes risks of misreporting linked to the yellowfin quota. All four coastal states have adopted national strategies and plans of actions to combat IUU fishing, either as national initiatives or through regional and/or international cooperation with bodies such as the EU, World Bank or FAO. Examples include ratification of regulations such as the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) or through participation in various bodies, such as the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC) in the cases of Cabo Verde, Senegal and Mauritania. IUU touches on several different aspects, and in many instances, controls also must cover issues such as illegal migration, terrorism and piracy as well, further putting a strain on resources.

High seas cases

The high seas fisheries in FAO areas 41 and 47 represents two very different fisheries. While the non-tuna high seas fisheries in FAO area 47 in the South East Atlantic is managed by SEAFO, there is no bi- or multilateral arrangement in place to manage the non-tuna fisheries in the South West Atlantic. Paradoxically, the fisheries are very limited in the SEAFO area and rather extensive in the South West Atlantic. The SEAFO is a well-run and well-structured RFMO, based on modern management principles and with a comprehensive system for MCS. SEAFO has contracting parties that includes the relevant distant water fishing nations and coastal states (except the UK on behalf of their territories in the area). SEAFO, to and increasing degree, cooperates with relevant RFMOs in the area in the fight against IUU fishing and management and enforcement in general. As such, it can function as a model for the situation in the South West Atlantic. In the South West Atlantic, the scientific cooperation between Argentina, Britain and the Falkland Iceland/Malvinas broke down in 2005, and today there are no scientific or other kind of cooperation between the coastal states and distant water fishing nations of which vessels fish in the area (most notably the EU/Spain, China, Taiwan and South Korea). In this situation, relevant flag state should adopt individual management measures for their vessels to ensure the sustainability of the targeted fish stocks and protection of VMEs, in line with international obligations. While all vessels are presumed to report their catches to their flag state, the lack of cooperation on the fisheries in this area and the unilateral measures in place by the EU creates an uneven playing field and a risk of over-harvesting of fish stocks. In the absence of a competent fisheries body and common regulations, a first step to improve the knowledge about this fishery could be to exchange catch and scientific data.

Analysis of the conflict over the use of marine space in Madagascar

FarFish essay series

FarFish developed and ran a one-week University-level certificate course in Marine Management and Innovation in the spring of 2020. Over thirty participants attended the course and eight students completed the certificate programme by submitting a thesis on FarFish relevant issues. We have been publishing summaries of these essays here at the FarFish webpage. The final summary in this series is based on the work of John Bunyan Israel from the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Tolaria, Madagascar.

Endowed with important maritime domains, Madagascar’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of around 1,140,000 km2 plays an important role in the nation’s economy. The country benefits from an abundance of marine and coastal resources as well as exceptional biodiversity, largely due to its 5,600 km long coastline, mangroves totalling 327,000 ha and coral reefs spanning 1,400 km. Fishing and aquaculture are key to the economy, producing an estimated value of $213 million annually (7% of the national GDP). The fishing and aquaculture sector accounts for 13% of exports, 2/3 of which come from small-scale fishing, which provides direct employment for about 300,000 men and women and livelihoods for 500,000 people. The sector also contributes greatly to food security and protein intake for Malagasy people. However, the food security gained from the sector is threatened by the conflict between small-scale fishing and industrial fishing (foreign vessels), where industrial fishing is encroaching on small-scale fishing grounds.

Numerous regulatory conditions contribute to this unfortunate situation. First, the Malagasy law does not clearly divide fishing zones for small-scale, artisanal and industrial fishing. In practice, this has resulted in the different types of fisheries operating on the same grounds. Secondly, there is still no legislation providing real protection for community fishing zones. Madagascar does prohibit trawling in rivers and the sea within the two-mile zone from the coast, but this law is insufficiently enforced, and subject to derogations for shrimp fishing. Third, the management policy of the Ministry of Fisheries is based on incomplete laws and makes no mentions of the rights of small-scale fishers. Fourth, management measures with good intentions to preserve marine resources, marine protected areas (MPAs) (200 locally managed marine areas covering 14,000 km2) has led to the interest conflicts between small-scale fisheries and industrial fisheries as they minimize the space available for the small-scale fishers.

It does not help either that the massive migration of farmers from the highlands to the coastal areas due to deforestation and lack of rainfall has caused increased efforts and pressure on the marine resources. As the sea is common property, the farmers have turned to fishing where they make use of destructive practices such as poison (locally referred to as “laro”) to catch fish. Hence, there is a depletion of coastal resources in a time where demand for maritime protein increases. As a ripple effect, this has led to small-scale fishers being forced to go offshore, where they compete even more with industrial vessels.  

In 2012, representatives from different fishing communities established a common network called the Mihari Network with the aim of uniting fishing communities and providing an arena where fishers can voice their opinions to the authorities. The network is fighting for the creation of an exclusive fishing zone specifically meant for the small-scale fisheries. In 2019 the Ministry of Fisheries launched an ad-hoc commission tasked with looking into the possibilities. However, this governmental initiative has stalled.

The industrial fishery does not respect the 12 miles that are reserved for small-scale and artisanal fishing according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). As Malagasy law does not specifically define the different fishing zones, the foreign vessels exploit this regulatory weakness. The consequences are disastrous for the marine resources of coastal regions, especially since factory ships discharge waste into the sea. All of this is causing the depletion of inshore resources and the decline in the quality of strategic resources exported such as crabs, which are now decreasing in size, thus value.

Overall, the conflict over the use of marine space in Madagascar is centred around the fact that the managerial and regulatory structure is weak. There is no clear law on the delimitation of zones so that each stakeholder can respect them. The Malagasy State also lacks the means to monitor fishing zones. Malagasy laws dating back to the colonisation should be revised to include a zonation of different fishing grounds; it must contain texts that protect and support small-scale fishing. Moreover, the Mihari Network must be supported in order to put pressure on the state to create an exclusive zone for small-scale fishing. Finally, the fishing communities must group themselves into various cooperatives and thus acquire new gear so that they can go out to sea and have more catches to meet the growing demand for animal protein. With such actions, the hope is that fair fishing in will be achieved in Madagascar.

John Bunyan Israel, a participant of the FarFish course Marine Management and innovation originally wrote the essay summarized here.

Pan-Arctic Marine Protected Area Network – a solution for anthropogenic threat in the Arctic

FarFish essay series

FarFish developed and ran a one-week University-level certificate course in Marine Management and Innovation in the spring of 2020. Over thirty participants attended the course and eight students completed the certificate programme by submitting a thesis on FarFish relevant issues. We have been publishing summary of these essays here at the FarFish webpage, and now we present the work of Diago Rocha Marques from Portugal, on Marine Protected area Network in the Arctic.

The Arctic and its ecosystems make up a unique region that hosts a tremendous range of wildlife, including commercially valuable marine species. It is also the home for many indigenous people that largely depend on the animal resources of the Arctic. For most of modern civilization history, this remote area has been relatively inaccessible due to geographic and climatic circumstances, but technological advancements and climate change has greatly changed this scenario. Today, only the northernmost parts of the Arctic remain inaccessible where the sea ice is still a physical barrier hindering commercial and military exploitation. However, it is plausible that the entire region will become exploitable as ice is retreating at an alarming rate due to global warming. Additionally, increasing demand for ocean resources, changes in numbers and populations of wildlife species, over-harvesting, increases in permanent inhabitants, and bloating tourism are other forces influencing the dramatic changes in the Arctic

Due to the abovementioned circumstances, the Arctic is receiving unprecedented international attention. Whereas the scientific community is trying to understand how increasing temperatures will affect the Arctic Ocean and its delicate ecosystems, world leaders are competing to gain control over the newly accessible waters. Currently, the Polar nations and some countries with no Arctic boarders (e.g. China) are angling for access to the Arctic’s natural and mineral resources, as well as establishing marine operations (e.g. shipping).

The Arctic consists of many individual marine protected areas (MPAs) where the management approach varies depending on the governing nation. Overall, they all attempt to govern environmental interests mainly, but also social and economic ones. The MPAs acts as management tools in a region with many diplomatic disputes. However, they also tend to be the common source of disagreement between stakeholders due to the multidimensional complexity of the Arctic region. This complexity comes from different national strategies, several exclusive economic zones and high sea areas, as well as vulnerable and unique ecosystems. This is why the Arctic MPAs should not be managed individually, but rather together in a MPA network through international cooperation. Such a network and cooperation would strengthen marine ecosystem resilience, and contribute to preserve the cultural and historical heritage of the indigenous communities, as well as developing the industrial sector in a sustainable way.

Due to the great area of the circumpolar region, such a complex network is fundamental to maintain ecosystem processes and connectivity, including food webs, migratory routes, along with improving resilience by facilitating actions concerning climate change and environmental hazards which may come from oil spill, diseases, and invasive species. Other potential benefits relate to protection of natural ecological values, such as habitats which host bottom tropic level species and IUCN red-listed species, securing exclusive nursing, spawning and feeding spots, and protection of normal abiotic values, for example filtration of Persistent Organic Pollutants. Furthermore, such a multidimensional network would also bring many socio-economic and cultural benefits that can be related to heritage values, educational values, scientific values and managerial values.

For a coherent implementation of a pan-Arctic MPAs network, the development and implementation of each Arctic MPA should be guided by some transversal principles. There should exist a transparent and open process and a coherent and systematic approach to guarantee that networks are linked to ecosystem-based management (EBM) efforts independently in the broader seascape – across EEZ boundaries – in the high seas. The government authorities’ rights and provisions of applicable agreements and treaties should be respected, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. All the different legitimate sources of knowledge, including scientific, cultural, indigenous, and industry knowledge, should be used for the development of more conscious policies. During the framework designing, there should exist integrated efforts across institutions as well as appropriate protection measures to guarantee that the projected level of protection is fitting to help achieve the goals and objectives for singular MPAs and the pan-Arctic network. Finally, the planning, development and implementation of each Arctic MPA should make use of dynamic evaluation and refinement of management practices. Ultimately, the pan-Arctic network can contribute as a higher-level conservation tool and increase efficiency of EBM in the Arctic area.

Diogo Rocha Marques, a participant of the FarFish course Marine Management and innovation originally wrote the essay summarized here.

Save the Date: International Conference

Challenges in the design and implementation of a sustainable fisheries management for the SW Atlantic: a scientific-based approach

The international conference Challenges in the design and implementation of a sustainable fisheries management for the SW Atlantic: a scientific-based approach, within the framework of FarFish project, will be held ‘online’ (Zoom platform) on March, 4th 2021 from 11.00 to 15.00 hours (CET).

The aim of the meeting is to advance in scientific collaboration, to promote networking and to approach knowledge from a biological, ecological and social perspective on the study of the SouthWest Atlantic.

With sustainable fisheries as a backdrop, questions related to stock assessment, vulnerable marine ecosystem conservation and monitoring tools, will be analyzed by scientific experts from different countries. Please find attached the preliminary agenda with more details about the event.

Registration is now open and it is completely free!

Preliminary Agenda

The FarFish word is spreading

This past week the FarFish project has been presented at two exciting platforms. One of FarFish’s key researcher, Duarte Vidal from Centro Tecnológico del Mar-Fundación (CETMAR), presented the project at an ANACEF OPP 43 conference in Spain on Management and sustainability of West African fisheries. The following day, the FarFish project was presented at the online European Research Night, where they wanted to highlight the Spanish contribution to FarFish lead by  Dr. Margarita Rincón from IEO and Dr. gabriel Navarro from CSIC.

Duarte Vidal from CETMAR presented the FarFish project at a conference held by ANACEF OPP 43, the National Association of Cephalopod Fishing Freezer Vessel Owners based in Las Palmas (Spain).

The theme of the conference was Management and Sustainability of West African Fisheries. The event brought together senior fisheries officials from Spain, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Mauritania, Gambia, Cape Verde and Morocco, as well as the Deputy head of the EU Agreements Unit, Mr. Emmanuel Berck and Mr. Antonio Lizcano, Deputy Director General of Regional Fisheries Agreements and Organizations (Sustainable Fisheries Directorate-Spain). At this conference, participants shared their vision towards the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements and discussed their importance for both the EU and West African countries, as well as their contribution towards the fisheries management in the region.

The European Research night was held online on the 27th of November in 29 European countries, where people got the opportunity to get to know the people behind EU research and experience the diversity of science and its impact on citizens’ daily lives, stimulating interest in research careers. The Andalucian contribution to this European event includes eight Andalusian cities organizing over 650 activities to bring science and research people closer to the general public, demonstrate in a practical and playful way the relationship between research and daily life, and disseminate scientific studies among young people. The FarFish contribution to this event is available at:

where the main objectives of the project were enumerated together with a translated to Spanish version of FarFish official video, and also the biographies of Margarita and Gabriel, the FarFish Andalucian researchers.

Patching the gaps of ABNJ governance

FarFish developed and ran a one-week University-level certificate course in Marine Management and Innovation in the spring of 2020. Over thirty participants attended the course and eight students completed the certificate programme by submitting a thesis on FarFish relevant issues. We have been publishing summary of these essays here at the FarFish webpage, and now we present the work of Daniel Jensen from UiT in Norway, which gives insights into governance in high-seas areas or Areas beyond National Jurisdictions (ABNJ).

Areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) are the areas past a states’ 200 nautical mile (nm) exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Marine biodiversity and the magnitude of the resources found in ABNJ provide crucial ecosystem services such as seafood, raw materials, genetic resources, medicinal resources, air purification, habitat services and cultural services. In fact, the mere scale of ABNJ makes them the most valuable provider of ecosystem services overall, not least in climate regulation. The Global Ocean Commission has estimated that high seas ecosystems are responsible for almost half of the total biological productivity of the global ocean. These ecosystems are also capturing and storing close to 500 billion tons of carbon annually, which equals a value of 74-222 billion USD. Moreover, nearly 10 million tons of fish are caught annually on the high seas, i.e. more than 16 billion USD in gross landed value per year. In other words, the features and resources of ABNJ are without doubt valuable with respect to environmental, social and economic terms.

The treaty governing ABNJ is the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It represents the international legal binding framework that governs ocean areas outside a state’s 12 nm territorial zone, including ABNJ. UNCLOS establishes a comprehensive set of rules and principles that intends to regulate all uses of the sea, i.e. the exploration and exploitation of its resources in all areas of ocean space. Despite being nearly universally recognized as one of the most significant accomplishments within international maritime governance, growing scientific knowledge and technological advancements – including intensification of anthropogenic activities across all oceans – have shown clear gaps and loopholes in UNCLOS. These gaps are especially evident in ABNJ governance. UNCLOS does include explicit principles for ABNJ, however these principles are primarily based on the 1958 Convention on the High Seas, and it is fair to say new challenges have arisen since that instrument was first adopted.
Today, the marine environment is under heavy pressure from various activities taking place in, the high seas. Fisheries and shipping (90% of world trade is conducted by the international shipping industry) are the more prominent industries, while newer industries such as seabed mining and bioprospecting are developing and growing. The intensification of these activities throughout the years has led to devastating overfishing, ecosystem destruction, and pollution. Consequently, current rules no longer adequate to meet modern challenges. The longstanding principle of the freedom of the high seas is no longer sufficient to regulate these uses and to ensure the protection as well as the preservation of the marine environment.
Apart from UNLCOS – acting as the overarching governing treaty – other agreements and organisations exists as well, with the intention of further improving sustainable maritime governance. However, the commonality between these agreements and organisations is that they often cover a particular sector or issue, typically created on a geographical basis, such as regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). This is why ocean governance framework is often characterized as fragmented, and this is especially the case with respect to ABNJ governance. There is an absence of a comprehensive set of overarching governance principles for ABNJ, and thus we are left with large regulatory gaps that are unable to deal with current issues. We need an international treaty specifically tailored to ABNJ. Therefore, it is reassuring to see that the United Nations (UN) has facilitated discussions between State representatives to develop an international legally binding framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of ABNJ, outlining consistent and transparent regulation. Such an agreement would create many benefits, with the most important one likely being long-term sustainable exploitation. So far, the discussions facilitated by UN are still ongoing, and it will likely take several years before an actual agreement is enforced. It is unfortunate, as implementing actions should be taken as soon as possible. However, the hope is that such a legal framework will contribute to better decision-making and cooperation between member Nations, as well as sustainable preservation of the marine resources.

Daniel Jensen, a participant of the FarFish course Marine Management and innovation originally wrote the essay summarized here.

Good practice guidelines for developing management recommendations for the EU fleet operating outside European waters – draft for commenting

One of many FarFish project outputs is the development a European voluntary CEN standard that will be published as CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) after going through an open CEN process. The focus of this standard is to provide guidelines for the development of so-called Management Recommendations for the EU fleet operating outside EU waters, which have been in development in the FarFish project over the past three years. The aim of creating these guidelines is, firstly, to improve the cooperation between the EU distant water fleet fishing in the waters of a third State and the authorities involved, i.e. both regional and relevant EU authorities. Secondly, applying the framework suggested in these guidelines will improve data flow and transparency between the EU operators and the authorities.

Creating Management Recommendations means following a framework where the operators themselves are given new management responsibilities. They become directly involved in the management and decision-making process of the fishery in question, as they are given the responsibility to develop strategies to reach specific fisheries management objectives set by the relevant authorities. Such strategies are to contain a set of fisheries management measures that together will reach the authorities’ pre-defined objectives and will only be implemented given the authorities’ approval. A draft of the guidelines for making Management Recommendations has already been developed and tested within the FarFish project and serves as basis for the standard.

The CEN process for developing the CWA standard is a one-year process. During this time, FarFish researchers will, in cooperation with the stakeholders that are voluntarily participating in the process, develop a final version of the guidelines through numerous physical and online meetings. Draft versions of the standard will be made publicly available for feedback during the course of its development, which will be announced on FarFish and CEN websites. 

The first draft of the standard is now available for commenting at the CEN webpage.

Deadline for commenting during this iteration is until  2 November 2020.

Anyone interested in taking part in this process can do so by registering, which is done by filling out this form and sending it then to the workshop secretary, Mr. Rolf Duus

FarFish – Inspiration for Changes

Cadu Villaça from Brazil participated in the Far Fish Marine Management and Innovation course at the University of Tromsø this past March. He wrote to us last week to let us know of some exciting developments in his professional life, part of which he attributes to his participation in the FarFish course. This highlights how the FarFish project is having impact in the partner countries and the live of those connected to the project. An abridged version of his letter follows:

My participation in the course in Marine Management and Innovation promoted by the FarFish Project at the University of Tromsø, and the opportunity it provided to spend a few days with excellent teachers and young talents in the incredible environment of the University and the beautiful Tromsø, and experiencing the boat ride with Hermes II after such a high conversation with the entrepreneur and owner, among so many other experiences and conversations, recently helped me make professional and personal decision of great importance.

For a long time, I have dedicated part of my time to representing the Brazilian Fishing Sector. This started with the intention of including the lobster fishery of the state of Ceará in a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP).  After some time, I was appointed to assume the Technical Direction of Conepe, the National Collective of Fishing and Aquaculture.

There, with a national perspective, I was exposed to a much more complex system involving many environments, fisheries and cultures. I experienced and became aware of the difficulties and shortcomings of National Fishing Management.

Some ICCAT meetings we have been able to attend have served as a good example of what can be achieved through international cooperation for sustainable fisheries. It is clear that when protocols of data collection and consolidation are established, and when properly analyzed and when reflected in standards and deliberations discussed in a respectful environment, even geographic and cultural barriers can be overcome to develop management systems on the basis of the best available information, prevailing coherence.

The course in Tromsø addressed many legal aspects of international management. The FarFish project also deals with this, namely the participation of European fleets in fisheries in international areas, whether by bilateral treaties or by activity in international waters, and the commitment of these fleets and their actors to promote in these regions action aimed at sustainability and efficient management of natural resources.

These experiences and the background I have gained over the years, have moved me decide to accept an invitation from the National Secretary of Aquaculture and Fisheries to join the Board of Directors in the Department of Registration and Monitoring.

Within the structure of the Ministry of Agriculture, which attends to agricultural and broodstock activities. The Ministry now comprises our comparatively small Secretary of Fisheries, which returned to this structure after experiences in many other institutions within the federal administration.  It basically has three Departments, including Fisheries Development and Management, Aquaculture Development and Management, and of Registration and Monitoring, where I now work.

In accepting this function, I acknowledge that it will not be possible to develop either fishing or aquaculture if we do not get the control of data and information. Our country is lacking in records and consequently cannot monitor activities properly.  What is produced, how much and where, with what seasonality, and a lot of other basic information is lacking, which causes problems for development of consistent instruments for management.

Our innovative idea is to promote, through support of technology and automation, a major campaign of systematization and data collection. This will allow us to offer the development departments of Aquaculture and Fisheries, new platforms of data collection and monitoring. It is clear that the Fisheries Department needs a thorough reviews, fleets, value chains, training, and production limits to truly be able to develop a solid and sustainable future scenario. We aim to develop strong cooperation with research centers, civil society representation, legislative powers, to finally bring regulation and legal security that promote medium and long-term investments and enable development and balance in the fisheries sector.

Finally, I must thank the FarFish project and the whole FarFish team for making my participation possible, as well as the UiT staff and the beautiful Tromsø. I hope that the inspiration of this course will reflect a great change in the Brazilian approach to fisheries and aquaculture management, and that we will enter a cycle of development of the Sea Economy in harmony with the various activities, countries and cultures that divide the Oceans.

Cadu Villaça