With the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the government of São Tomé and Príncipe is launching a national strategy to analyse and upgrade coastal pelagic fishing. This 10-year strategy aims to make coastal pelagic fishing more profitable and environmentally sustainable.
The government of São Tomé and Príncipe, through its Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, presented the strategic plan for the coastal pelagic fisheries sector on 6 November 2023 in the capital São Tomé. This is coastal fishing targeting pelagic fish, i.e. fish species living in waters close to the surface or between the surface and the seabed.
Discussions on the management plan for São Tomé and Príncipe’s national pelagic fisheries strategy will begin in November 2023 at the latest. According to the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, attention will need to be paid to a 25% increase in the number of boats, to more than 2,700 in just four years since the last survey in 2019. At the same time, capacity-building to promote improved skills in handling techniques, safety at sea and boat building is about to get underway. A training of trainers course on the management of revolving funds scheduled for December 2023 will then be delivered in five fishing communities, helping them to manage investments in cold chain equipment, transport or the development of new products.
A strategic plan deployed as part of the FAO’s FISH4ACP programme
The 10-year strategic plan for analysing and upgrading São Tomé and Príncipe’s coastal pelagic fishing sector is part of FISH4ACP, an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OEACP) implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with funding from the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Operating in eleven other countries, FISH4ACP works to strengthen fish value chains.
“The FAO is helping São Tomé and Príncipe to turn its coastal pelagic fisheries blue. We are delighted that the FISH4ACP programme is contributing to the four objectives that are at the heart of FAO’s efforts: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind”, says Athman Mravili, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Central Africa.
Pelagic species account for 60% of total fish catches
According to the value chain analysis carried out by the FISH4ACP programme, annual catches of coastal pelagic fish such as flying fish, blue runner, small tuna and auxide (frigate mackerel) account for almost 60% of São Tomé and Príncipe’s total fish catches.
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With more than half of protein consumption coming from fish, coastal pelagics are a vital source of affordable food in this island country off the coast of central Africa. By 2021, annual catches of coastal pelagics were estimated at nearly 8,500 tonnes, according to the analysis, 80% of which were sold fresh on the local market for a sales value of more than $4 million. The analysis also raised concerns about the sustainability of fish stocks and the impact of coastal pelagic fishing on biodiversity and ecosystems.