A 200 nautical mile Maritime Zone in the sea around St Helena has been designated a Marine Protected Area (MPA) (see attached map) – announced at the 2016 ‘Our Ocean’ Conference hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington DC on Thursday 15 September 2016.
The MPA and subsequent Marine Management Plan for this area is a significant step forward for St Helena to meet both local and international commitments, and to protect local maritime interests.
Part 2 of this Q & A looks at issues relating to fishing in the MPA.
How will local fishing be managed and enforced?
There is current legislation that gives authorities the provision to licence fishing activity and impose conditions. But this legislation is dated and is not as robust as it should be. A new Fisheries Ordinance and Regulations, and a new Fisheries Licensing Policy is currently being drafted and will be adopted within a few months to provide improved management of fishing. A dedicated marine fisheries enforcement post is also being developed to support awareness and compliance. This post will also enforce fisheries law, provisions for marine tourism and fisheries licences granted for recreational, sport and commercial fishing.
How do we know that we’re not taking too many fish?
St Helena’s fishing industry principally targets tuna. Tuna are highly migratory fish that travel vast distances in the ocean and therefore need to be managed in co-operation with other countries that fish them. To achieve this, St Helena (through the UK) is a member of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), which manages Atlantic tuna stocks.
All of St Helena’s commercial fish catches are landed at Rupert’s and the catch from each boat is recorded. The Marine Section makes regular visits to the cold store to measure and weigh samples of fish caught each month to ensure that ICCAT is provided with statistics to gauge the stock which migrates through St Helena’s waters.
In addition, various other statistics are collected to understand growth pattern and lifecycle details of the fish caught here. A tuna tagging scheme is currently underway which will provide evidence of how the tuna stocks move around the ocean and residency within St Helena waters if recaptured.
How will St Helena monitor and tackle illegal, unregulated or unlicensed (IUU) fishing activity that might happen in St Helena’s waters?
St Helena will utilise satellite monitoring systems to determine if there is a problem with IUU fishing in our MPA. The most likely locations of illegal vessels are the seamount hotspots that are currently fished by St Helena boats – which are required to report any sightings of other vessels. If necessary, St Helena can use offshore boats to undertake specific patrols.
What happens to the evidence collected on IUU fishing?
Any reports of illegal fishing are passed to the Marine & Fisheries Division of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for further follow-up with the Flag State parties.
What has changed now that our MPA is declared?
The declaration of the MPA means that there is now a clear framework to ensure the sustainable management of St Helena’s marine resources. Whilst the MPA will not affect traditional fishing methods, it will require better regulation and collection of data associated with fishing and any other marine activities. Having declared the MPA, St Helena – with the support of the UK Government – has an obligation to ensure that it is thoroughly and responsibly implemented.
How will the MPA affect the local fishing industry?
St Helena’s traditional form of fishing is pole and line – renowned as the most environmentally friendly method of fishing in the world. So in terms of practicality, there will be very little change. But new legislation and licensing will require logbook keeping for boat owners, observer coverage and stricter conditions for licensing in terms of littering etc.
3 October 2016