However, there has been a decrease in the fish stocks over the past years. It was estimated that 47% of 441 stocks (for which some available information on their status are available) were fully exploited, 18% were overexploited, 9% were depleted and 1% was recovering. Therefore, this necessitates urgent actions worldwide, including the Indian Ocean, for sustainable conservation, management, development and utilization of the India Ocean fisheries resources.
IORA is attributing high importance in strengthening cooperation in both the Fisheries Management Sector, as well as the Blue Economy, as reflected in the IORA Action Plan 2017-2021, which was adopted at the IORA Leaders’ Summit in March 2017 in Indonesia. This Action Plan is viewed as a roadmap that sets-up concrete actions to be undertaken on a short-term, medium-term and long-term basis, as well as to charter the future development of the IORA and for promoting cooperation in each priority sectors and focus areas. In view of sustaining and sustainably manage this growing industry, IORA Member States have been addressing several issues covering a wide range of themes such as: seafood products safety and quality; seafood handling, post-harvest processing and storage of fisheries and aquaculture products; banking and artisanal fisheries; sustainable management and development of fisheries resources; fish trade; among others.
In addition, the IORA Fisheries Support Unit (FSU), which is hosted by the Sultanate of Oman, manages and spearheads IORA efforts to identify and discuss key fisheries-related issues mentioned in the action plan. It also serves to study proposals and facilitate research in areas that are of practical use to Member States. The FSU acts as a regional centre for knowledge sharing, capacity building and addressing strategic issues in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
In order to tackle the challenges facing regional fisheries management, Member States should expand on this cooperative mechanism. In addition, it might be appropriate to find ways to remove barriers and boundaries among the different parts of the fisheries management processes including science, policy, and decision-making, involvement of private sectors, and Dialogue Partners engagement, so as to bring them together into regional management forums.
The role of the FSU as an Advisory Committee for Fisheries and Aquaculture may be further explored and strengthened. It has been reported that the future increasing global demand for fish consumption will have to be met by aquaculture. This therefore necessitates the attention of IORA Member States for further research, capacity building initiatives and development in this sector. IORA is also working toward developing regional/international networking to interact with other institutions sharing common interests in fisheries management.
Fisheries management should be at the core of the new maritime policy, which IORA should strengthen and develop to build mutual understanding among all decision-makers and players of the maritime industry. Effective decision-making must also integrate environmental concerns into maritime policies as maritime pollution and plastic debris, which plays a major role in the decline of fish stocks.