Spanning across 7.23 million square kilometres, the vast expanse of the Western Indian Ocean abounds with marine life – a valuable resource that sustains people’s livelihoods and ecosystems alike.

For 15 years now, after an ongoing fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the Western Indian Ocean, a consortium of nine islands and coastal states has united under the auspices of the Regional Fisheries Monitoring Plan (PRSP), acknowledging the imperative to safeguard this invaluable asset.

Rough seas

In the quest for the sustainable management of their resources, one of the primary hurdles of the PRSP has been the lack of trust amongst participating nations. In this regard, effective regional cooperation was difficult to achieve.

Furthermore, instances of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing further strained this trust. Such activities, unfortunately, undermined the efforts to preserve marine biodiversity and sustain coastal livelihoods.

Waves of progress 

In the face of these challenges, the PRSP countries – Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Mozambique, Seychelles, and Tanzania, have exemplified the resilience and determination of regional cooperation.

Joint patrols, seamless data exchange, and coordinated observation missions have led to the success of this coalition. Mr. Vélayoudom Marimoutou, Secretary General of the Indian Ocean Commission, stressed:

“Through shared understanding and mutual respect, the PRSP has laid a foundation for sustainable fisheries management. This enabled the PRSP to work in the best conditions.”

Alongside trust, vigilance stands resolute. With every vessel inspection and data exchange, the PRSP reaffirms its dedication to enforcing regulations and thwarting illegal fishing activities.

Mr. Tiana Radriambola, Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Officer of the Indian Ocean Commission, explains: “During our first visit in 2007, we had apprehended some vessels operating without a licence – a very serious offence. When we came back in 2022, we inspected 56 vessels and none had serious offences! With a decline from 25% to 0%, the PRSP’s effectiveness is evident.”

The tangible outcomes of the united countries paint a compelling picture of its efficacy in combating illegal fishing practices and preserving marine ecosystems. In fact, this approach not only protects marine biodiversity but also safeguards the livelihoods of the coastal communities dependent on these resources.

Adapting to ever-changing waters 

Looking ahead, Mr. Vincent Degert, who was the Ambassador of the European Union in Mauritius and Seychelles at the time, emphasises the need for the PRSP to evolve and adapt to emerging challenges. For him, it is essential to embrace new technologies and forge new partnerships each passing year in order to stay one step ahead of those who seek to exploit the ocean’s bounty.

“Institutionalisation and collaboration with other regional initiatives are essential to sustaining the PRSP’s impact in the years to come. The evolving nature of illegal fishing practices demands a dynamic response, one that leverages technological advancements and cross-border partnerships,” he further adds.

As the PRSP countries outstrip the global average score in the IUU fishing index, optimism prevails. By fortifying partnerships and implementing robust policies, the PRSP remains poised to spearhead transformative change in the Western Indian Ocean.