11 January 2022. São Tomé and Príncipe announced today its public commitment to join the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI). The country becomes the sixth country to increase transparency in its fisheries management through the FiTI Standard, following Mauritania, Seychelles, Senegal, Cabo Verde and Madagascar. The country’s commitment was conveyed via an official letter by His Excellency Francisco Martins dos Ramos, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development to Dr Valeria Merino, Chair of the FiTI International Board.
Through this commitment, the country unequivocally declared its desire to improve transparency in the fisheries sector and to involve relevant stakeholders from the government, artisanal and industrial fisheries as well as civil society in the process in order to remain consistent with the objectives and principles of the FiTI.
“São Tomé and Príncipe recognized early on that its valuable fisheries resources were being exploited beyond sustainable levels, by national and foreign fleets, and in a non-transparent and non-inclusive manner. Therefore, we seek to create mechanisms to reverse this trend and help regenerate the exploitation of fisheries resources, through the development of a sustainable fisheries management system, based on fisheries research, fisheries administration and an inspection system,” wrote Mr. Francisco Martins Dos Ramos in his letter.
Authorities of São Tomé and Príncipe already publicly committed to the FiTI in December 2018; however, this commitment did not endure the change in political leadership of the country in 2019. In November 2020, the FiTI International Secretariat restarted its collaboration with stakeholders in São Tomé and Príncipe (government, business, civil society), supported by its local implementation partner, MAR Ambiente e Pesca Artesanal (MARAPA).
With this commitment, the government of São Tomé and Príncipe is setting a decisive milestone for transparency in the management of its marine fisheries. More transparent commercial and financial flows in the fisheries sector can help the country to achieve more responsible, equitable and profitable fisheries, while better governance will reassure potential investors and attract more foreign investment. However, it is important to emphasize that fisheries is not only about finances. The FiTI helps countries to better appreciate the socioeconomic contributions of the sector and to strengthen the capacity of governments to manage the resources in a sustainable manner, for a better contribution to food and nutritional security as well as to employment and wealth creation in all segments of the fisheries.
Under the technical guidance of the FiTI International Secretariat, São Tomé and Príncipe will now work to complete the sign-up-steps required by the FiTI Standard in order to submit its official application to the FiTI International Board. A first country mission by the International Secretariat is scheduled for February/March 2022.
It is emphasised that such a public commitment demonstrates a sincere intention of the country’s government to increase transparency in fisheries management through the FiTI. However, the commitment should not be misinterpreted as official acceptance into the initiative. Only when such a commitment is followed by concrete implementation activities (such as the establishment of a FiTI National Multi-Stakeholder Group or the agreement on the country’s first FiTI workplan) and the subsequent approval of the country’s Candidate Application by the FiTI International Board will São Tomé and Príncipe be formally recognised as an FiTI implementing country.