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Seychelles’ Fisheries: “We Have Nothing to Hide; We Have Everything to Share”

Pesquerías en Seychelles: “No tenemos nada que esconder; tenemos todo por compartir”

Will MayandFatime Kante|

In a milestone for global transparency efforts in marine fisheries management, Seychelles submitted the world’s first report to the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) in mid-April, fulfilling a crucial commitment of its current OGP action plan.

The Republic of Seychelles has become the first country in the world to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the levels of transparency across all aspects of its fisheries sector.

The results of this assessment are laid out in Seychelles’ first report to the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), a global multi-stakeholder partnership defining for the first time what fisheries information governments should publish online.

In a bold statement made at the launch of Seychelles’ first FiTI Report, the Minister for Fisheries and the Blue Economy Jean-François Ferrari declared:

“This government has a clear vision to make Seychelles’ fisheries the most transparent in the world. We have nothing to hide; we have everything to share.”

The report was vetted and approved by Seychelles’ FiTI National Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG), composed equally of government, business and civil society representatives. Such a multi-stakeholder endeavour is not only in line with SDG 17, but is also a prerequisite for ensuring the contents of the report are seen as credible and trustworthy.

A main conclusion of the report is that a mind shift towards proactive ‘open government’ is still needed in Seychelles’ fisheries. The enactment of the country’s Access to Information Act in 2018 initiated a new governance paradigm from one of secrecy to one of transparency. But the FiTI Report highlights that while a substantial amount of information on Seychelles’ fisheries sector is collated by national authorities (e.g. the Seychelles Fishing Authority), this information has often not been published online or is not easily accessible to the public.

The report also emphasises that significant gaps in the online availability of fisheries information may have led to controversies over certain aspects of Seychelles’ fisheries among the general public in the past.

As part of the FiTI Report, a host of previously unpublished information is now also publicly available, such as fishing access agreements between Seychelles and Mauritius, key legal, policy and management documents, and a summary of the status of fish stocks. Furthermore, the report shows that past disclosure practices, e.g. regarding fisheries subsidies, have not been in line with the country’s own legal requirements as stipulated in the Access to Information Act.

The report concludes with 34 practical recommendations from the National MSG on how Seychelles can further strengthen the public availability, accessibility and credibility of its fisheries information. These include, for example, publishing a summary description of the various types of fisheries in Seychelles to facilitate public understanding, making available the results of all recent stock assessments, and establishing an up-to-date, online vessel registry in line with the requirements of the FiTI Standard. Work to implement these recommendations has already begun in earnest.

Rooted in its engagement with the OGP, Seychelles is now looking to build on this achievement and ‘spread the word’. On the national level, members of Seychelles’ National MSG are currently preparing for a ‘Tour des Seychelles’, in which they will present the FiTI Report to various fisheries stakeholders and encourage them to debate and engage with its contents. This is an important step for ensuring informed public discourse on fisheries transparency in Seychelles, as highlighted in the country’s latest Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) report.

Internationally, with over 80% of the 78 OGP member countries sharing a coastline with either an ocean or sea, the global OGP network represents a fantastic avenue for Seychelles to share its experiences of promoting fisheries transparency with other maritime states, while also demonstrating a practical sectoral solution approach for access to information.

Seychelles is already preparing its next annual FiTI Report – expected by the end of 2021 – in order to follow up closely on progress made towards enhancing transparency in marine fisheries.

Leading by example, Seychelles is confident that other OGP countries will follow, helping to create a much needed level playing field by making the sharing of information on fisheries the norm, and not the exception.

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