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In June, the IWC will participate in a new, global initiative to increase co-ordination and co-operation amongst regional fisheries bodies.

Led by the Fisheries and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the overall objective of the new programme is to promote and establish effective regional frameworks and develop concerted approaches on matters of common concern including Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing (IUU) and ecosystem impacts such as bycatch.

The first meeting will be held in Mozambique and focus on the Indian Ocean region. Participating organisations include those mandated to manage fishery resources and their marine ecosystems in the Indian Ocean, and other organisations focused on species with a global distribution which includes interactions and concerns in the Indian Ocean.   

Key to the IWC’s involvement is the issue of bycatch, the accidental capture of non-target species in fishing gear. The Bycatch Mitigation Initiative (BMI) is a multi-disciplinary work programme which aims to raise awareness of the scale of the problem and potential solutions, as well as initiating pilot programmes to test new approaches and technologies.  Collaboration is core to the Initiative which works with technology and the fishing industry, economists, legal experts, NGOs and fishing communities, as well as the FAO and regional fisheries bodies whose involvement is of course crucial to success. 

The IWC participated in the development of the FAO Guidelines to Prevent and Reduce Bycatch of Marine Mammals in Capture Fisheries, and will soon be launching a four-year FAO/Global Environment Fund project to address cetacean bycatch in the Indian and Pacific Ocean basins, for which the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) will be a critical partner.

Much of the BMI’s work is focused on the Indian Ocean, a region where high bycatch is estimated in the extensive gillnet fleets, but information is generally lacking on the extent of the problem and the applicability of possible solutions. 

Seven regional fisheries bodies and the other identified stakeholders will gather in Mozambique.  The group will compare existing regulatory frameworks, monitoring, control and compliance measures.  They will also identify priority areas for technical co-operation with the over-reaching aim of developing a Co-ordination Framework between regional fisheries bodies in the Indian Ocean.

The meeting takes place in Maputo, 22-24 June.