'People have the right to know how much is paid, how much is fished, how and by whom'

Isabella Lovin, Sweden International Cooperation Minister, is interviewed by Jedna Deida. It has been published on Mauriweb Info http://mauriweb.info/node/1549

You just ended a visit to Mauritania. You met Mauritanian high authorities. Can you tell us what has been discussed?

Yes, I visited Mauritania to attend the FiTI conference, where I was invited as a key note speaker, due to my long time engagement in sustainable fisheries. Of course I also met with members of the government and the President, discussing Swedish-Mauritanian relations. We have a common interest in sustainable fisheries, and we were also discussing more broadly on sustainable development, the importance of fight against corruption and the importance of transparency, as well as the freedom of the press.

What do think about the FiTI Conference and what can be expected from all fisheries partners to improve FiTi’s achievements?

I think it is excellent that Mauritania is taking the lead in this Fisheries Transparency initiative, that now important fishing countries such as Indonesia and Senegal have joined. What has now to be developed are the technical FiTI standards and I expect the transparency will be needed in at least three areas: on payments, on catches and on tenure arrangements. The public has the right to know how much is being paid, how much is being fished, how and by whom.

What would be the concrete benefits of transparency in African fisheries when it comes to the activities of industrial fishing in our waters?

It is greatly important for two reasons. First of all to fight corruption. By publishing all fisheries access agreements, the terms and the IMO numbers of boats involved, civil society and free media can hold their governments accountable. Secondly, it is essential to conserve the marine resources. Full transparency on catches is needed to make stock assessments, and it is important for local populations and local fishermen that should have priority access to the fish. It’s only if there is a surplus not needed by local fishermen, that any fishing should be allowed for foreign fleets.

Do you think an initiative like the FiTI will live up to our expectations?

It depends on all the stakeholders that are engaged. It's too early to tell.

What is needed to ensure it doesn't become just a 'whitewashing' exercise for African governments, to attract more foreign investments without changing their opaque behaviors?

What is needed is true commitment by governments and full engagement of civil society actors and organisations. It is also important to keep in mind that governments actually are gaining from committing to transparency and long term sustainability. For the EU, a condition for signing fisheries agreements is that EU only negotiates for a surplus of fish, not needed by local populations. Then countries need to publish all their agreements if they want a fisheries agreement with the EU. This is what we changed with the new EU Common Fisheries Policy.

As a European Parliamentarian, you have been one of the most involved fighter to defend responsible and sustainable fishing on the African coast. Now, as Sweden Minister of international cooperation, what can you promote to help fishermen in Africa?

Sweden is engaged in a number of ways, supporting fisheries research and capacity building in Africa. We see that fisheries is an important source of livelihood for millions of people and also that fish is an important source of proteins - it is all too important to be destroyed by overfishing. Therefore we now include sustainable management of fisheries in our regional cooperation strategy for Africa.

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