For millions of people around the world, seafood provides a source of nutrition and economic security. Our appetite for fish has doubled since the 1960s, and today roughly one third of the world’s fish stocks are depleted by harvesting at biologically unsustainable levels. At current rates of extraction, they can no longer replenish themselves naturally.
A leading cause of fish stock decline is overfishing by super-trawlers. These massive factory vessels can catch, process and freeze more than two hundred tons of fish each day. Along with targeted fish species, the trawlers haul into their mile-long nets “bycatch species,” which have little to no commercial value and as a result are thrown away. Along with driving the precipitous decline of fish stocks, overfishing creates dangerous imbalances in marine ecosystems and deprives people who live in coastal communities not just of food but too often, of their livelihoods.
To develop more sustainable fisheries and enable better marine management, stakeholders in the industry need access to reliable information.
However, much of the data currently available about marine fisheries is overly complex, outdated, unreliable or incomplete. Because governments often fail to disclose basic yet essential information on fish populations, fishing effort, catch sizes, and subsidies, companies also don’t share critical information on their fishing practices or payments to government agencies.
Since 2017, the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) has been working to increase transparency and the exchange of accurate information with the goal of improving fisheries management. Its target audiences and primary constituencies are the fishing nations of the world and their governments, whose responsibility it is to manage public ocean resources and how private industry uses them. In April, the Seychelles — an archipelago of 115 tropical islands and a major player in the global tuna industry — became the first country in the world to submit a comprehensive fisheries report to FiTI.
The report outlines the key factors influencing the fishing industry in the Seychelles, including foreign fishing access agreements, stock information, catch data and fishing subsidies. It further assesses the country’s level of compliance against the FiTI Standard, an internationally recognized agreement that details which fisheries information should be made accessible to the public.
As FiTI National Multi-Stakeholder Group Chair Philippe Michaud, explained, "Fisheries are for all Seychellois and it is important to be accountable and have a system where you get more participation of all the different groups. When information is more visible, different groups can say if the information is correct, or if there is something missing, to enable good governance and manage resources sustainably."
Producing seafood more sustainably is critical for the Seychelles, a biodiversity hotspot whose waters are home to some of the world’s last pristine coral reefs, teeming with endangered species. In addition to fishing, tourism served as the cornerstone of the country’s economy. However, both sectors have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought tourism to a halt and impacted supply markets and regional trade. Sustainable fishing and tourism industries are essential to the long-term economic well-being of the country, which is what makes initiatives like FiTI so important.
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has been supporting this work through its Conservation and Markets Initiative, funding efforts to increase transparency in fisheries management and seafood supply chains.
The next country expected to submit a report to the FiTI is Mauritania. In fact, FiTI was launched in Mauritania in 2016. To learn more, visit fisheriestransparency.org.