Fish at one of Africa's markets

The East African Community (EAC) states and the European Union (EU) have stepped up efforts to facilitate fish trade and safeguard public health in the region.

The EU, through the various EAC fisheries agencies, has trained about 200 border inspectors on how to make formal cross-border trade in fisheries more attractive than the current informal and unethical practices, press statement indicates.

According to the statement, the trainings are jointly conducted by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), through its EU-Funded Smart Fish program, and EAC to improve the quality and to ease fish trade in East Africa.

The program, according to the IOC is expected to develop a border fisheries inspector’s manual which will among other things improve food safety, a key component that is required for the export of fisheries products to the EU market.

The objective of the training that lasted one month was to improve the skills and capacity of fisheries officers, police officers, customs officers, immigration officers, port health officers and the standards officers of these countries.

“The BFI project is a stepping stone to promoting formal trade, thus ensuring public health and promoting ethical practices. In this context and in the near future, Regional Economic Communities would be called to play a major role,” said Satish Hanoomanjee, the IOC-SmartFish Fish Trade Expert.

“This initiative is audacious and is considered as a game changer in the cross-border fish trade in support to the regional economic integration in fisheries sector,” he added.

The IOC said the development of the Border Fisheries Inspectors’ manual was a milestone in enhancing regional fish trade.

It also facilitates formal cross-border trade of fish products, which, according to fisheries officials, is important in ensuring that proper documentation and quality controls are adhered to.

Godfrey Monor, Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization Executive Secretary, said the project has received high level support following the direct involvement of the Africa Union (AU).

“This project is inspired by the high level goal of the African Union, which is to advance regional integration of the African fisheries sector through smart trade and investments as a pathway to achieve the sustainable development goals,” said Monor.

Fish is the largest traded food commodity worldwide. An estimated 45 percent of the world catch is now traded internationally.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), the global inland production was estimated at 11.2 million tons.

Awaiting the imminent EAC Council of Ministers approval for the EAC Border Fish Inspector’s (BFI) manual, SmartFish has moved ahead to test through a series of five national training exercises at strategic cross border fisheries check posts between six EAC countries: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Uganda and Tanzania are the leading fishing countries in the African Great Lakes Region. The volume of informal trade across these borders is estimated at 35 percent of total value.