4.1 Data and Information Systems
4.2 Professional Associations
4.3 Fisheries and Aquaculture Projects
4.4 Regional Fishery Bodies
There are several types of cooperation which can be referred to as networks and which are important from the point of view of their information resources, products and services. Examples of some African regional networks have been broadly categorised below in order to highlight the different mechanisms for sharing and disseminating information.
These provide mechanisms for the collection and dissemination of information and data. In addition to their valuable information products, these systems play an important role in establishing partnerships, training and capacity building. Within fisheries and aquaculture there are several important information systems in Africa:
Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA), which started in 1971, is built on a partnership between a growing number of national, inter-governmental and U.N. agencies. The overall objective of the ASFA Partnership is to disseminate information on aquatic sciences and fisheries to the world community, bearing in mind the special interests of developing countries in this field. <www.fao.org/fi/asfa/asfa.asp>. In recent years a number of African national partners have become ASFA input centres, thus improving the capture and dissemination of information in the region. The current African partners are the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Instute (Mombasa), Centre de recherches océanologiques (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire), Institut national de recherche halieutique (Casablanca, Morocco) and Institut National des Sciences et Technologies de la Mer (INSTM), (Salammbô, Tunisia).
FISHBASE and the ACP-EU funded Project Strengthening Fisheries and Biodiversity Management in ACP Countries has as its overall objective to provide national policymakers with information, methods and tools that will contribute to the formulation and implementation of policies and strategies for the conservation of aquatic biodiversity, its sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits, according to the provisions of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). The project established three regional nodes in Africa. The coordinators in their respective region followed up on training activities of the project and lent support to fisheries scientists and managers with respect to information retrieval and exchange. There are many African institutions and scientists which collaborate with FISHBASE. Future plans for FishBase include enhanced accessibility and remote data entry so that collaborators can add and modify the information of their respective countries or areas of expertise.<www.fishbase.org/training>
FISHLIT is one of the many databases produced by the National Inquiry Service Centre (NISC South Africa). The mission of NISC South Africa is to provide local and global information for Africa, about Africa and by Africans. FISHLIT is produced in association with the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology, Rhodes University, South Africa which also offers a document delivery service. Coverage of tropical areas and African freshwater fish in particular is comprehensive, and there is much information particularly relevant for developing countries. FISHLIT is included in other NISC anthology databases such as Aquatic Biology, Aquaculture & Fisheries Resources (ABFR) and Fish & Fisheries Worldwide. <www.nisc.co.za/fishlit.html>
ODINAFRICA is the Ocean Data and Information Network for Africa project of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). It has incorporated the Regional Cooperation in Scientific Information Exchange in the Western Indian Ocean Region (RECOSCIX-WIO) and continues to provide information services to the scientific community, with the aim of promoting the scientific capabilities of the region. The Regional Dispatch Centre (RDC) based at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) in Mombasa acts as a traffic controller, linking the different components of the system. The information systems produced or contributed to by RECOSCIX-WIO include: A catalogue of holdings of marine science libraries (WIOLIB), a Directory of marine scientists, WINDOW Newsletter, the ASFA Database, a marine species database for Eastern Africa. <www.odinafrica.org>
In addition to publishing valuable sources of information such as conference proceedings, membership directories etc., the many professional associations in the aquatic sciences provide a forum for the exchange of expertise as well as information. The range of types of association is wide, including the scientific or the information specialised, those based entirely in Africa or those with an African regional group of an international association. The following are just two examples:
The International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC) is an association of individuals and organizations interested in aquatic and marine information science. The association provides a forum for exchange and exploration of ideas and issues of mutual concern <siolibrary.ucsd.edu/iamslic/>. The Africa Regional Group has members in nine countries.
The Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), is a non-governmental and non-profit regional organization for promoting the educational, scientific and technological development of all aspects of marine sciences throughout the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. The Association gathers and disseminates marine science information; it holds all types of meetings to foster marine science development and information exchange; and enhances better communication among the marine scientists and other professionals involved in the advancement of marine science research and development on the WIO region.
From the point of view of establishing an information resource base and introducing information services, regional fisheries and aquaculture projects are the most important category. Regional projects normally have a minimum five years duration and some have been funded to continue their activities for considerably longer. They publish extensively and build valuable library and information collections for the benefit of participating countries.
FAO has been involved in the implementation of many regional projects of this type in Africa. Eamples are: the Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme (SFLP), which started its activities in November 1999, involves 25 West African countries and co-ordinates information services at its headquarters in Cotonou (Bénin) <www.fao.org/fi/projects/sflp/index.html>; the Lake Tanganyika Research (LTR) Project 'Research for the Management of the Fisheries on Lake Tanganyika', which was implemented from 1992 to 2000, when it became the nationally executed Lake Tanganyika Fisheries Monitoring Programme. The Documentation Centre established by LTR in Burundi serves the four lake basin States of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Zambia <www.fao.org/fi/ltr/index.htm>.
Another category of project is represented by the Fisheries Information and Analysis System (FIAS), which is mandated to collect, analyse and disseminate data and information between member countries and to the global community. FIAS is an ecosystem based approach to resource management in West Africa, involving 6 Research institutions in Northwest Africa from the Sub-Regional Fishery Commission (Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, the Gambia, Cape Verde, Mauritania); 4 Research institutions in Europe (France, Spain, Portugal) and FAO of the United Nations. The specific objective of FIAS is strengthening of the capacities for improved resource management in the partner countries in Northwest Africa, both at national and regional level. <www.fisat2000.org/fias.htm>
Africa has at least twelve Regional Fishery Bodies in existence or under negotiation. Further information can be found at <www.fao.org/fi/body/rfb/index.htm>. These are mostly advisory bodies that provide members with scientific and management advice, although some are management bodies which directly establish management measures. They publish a wealth of information relevant to several countries in the region and provide a valuable forum for the exchange of information and experience between participating member countries. Various of the North African countries are members of scientific intergovernmental bodies covering the Mediterranean Sea, for example the International Commission for the Scientific Exploration of the Mediterranean Sea (CIESM). The Commission is currently funded by 22 Member States which support the work of a large scientific network - some 500 institutes and over 2500 researchers - united by a commitment to promote marine science for the lasting protection of the Mediterranean Sea and for the well-being of its coastal populations. <www.ciesm.org/index.html>