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SmartFish is a regional fisheries project managed by the Indian Ocean Commission, funded by the European Union and co-implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. SmartFish, which operates in twenty countries throughout the Indian Ocean Region, Southern and Eastern Africa, focuses on fisheries governance, management, monitoring control and surveillance, trade, and food security.

About the programme

The programme is implemented by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) in collaboration with the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East Africa Community (EAC) and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Other regional institutions involved include the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and regional fisheries management organizations, such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC), the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO), and the Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA).


Fisheries are one of the most significant renewable resources that Eastern-Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Region (ESA-IO) countries have for food security, livelihoods and economic growth based on sustainable resources management plans and there is significant potential for value-added production. As populations in these countries continue to grow, the future benefits that these resources can provide will require balancing the increasing demands on fisheries, with the capacity of oceanic, coastal and freshwater fish stocks to sustain those harvests.

The SmartFish Programme aims at contributing to an increased level of social, economic and environmental development and deeper regional integration in the ESA-IO through improved capacities for the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources.

Beneficiaries countries

The program’s beneficiary countries include Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Though they don't benefit from 10th EDF ESA-IO funds, Mozambique and South Africa are involved as members of SADC and through the Inter-Regional Coordination Committee (IRCC) framework. Réunion Island (France) is also participating as a member of the IOC; although not as a financial beneficiary.

Fisheries Management and Food Security

David Signa
Davide Signa/FAO

A Programme Management Unit has been established to assist with the implementation of the project and is based in IOC Headquarters in Mauritius. FAO is co-implementing the SmartFish Programme on matters related to fisheries development and management and to food security

An Action Plan is prepared for fisheries management and development for the ESA-IO region. The potential contribution of fisheries in the ESA-IO region is much higher than is currently realized.

This component of the Programme addresses, inter alia, the following issues:

  • The weakness of fisheries policies and inadequacies in legal and regulatory frameworks of the sector: These have led to the suboptimal utilization of natural resource and often resulted in stagnating or declining catches. Specific capacities need to be improved to ensure the sustainability of the resources on which fisheries and aquaculture production is based. Increased benefits from the sector can indeed be expected if based on proper resource management.
  • The poor quality of information: Information systems have proved insufficient to guide policy development and resources management at the national and regional level. This is further aggravated by the fact that is information is mainly collected for the large scale commercial sector because this is easier and provides net revenues. The small scale sector, however, produces the bulk of the locally consumed catch and is often not given due attention because of the technical difficulties involved.
  • The general lack of human and institutional capacity: this is especially the case when dealing with the multifaceted aspect of fisheries and aquaculture policy development and resource management.
  • Improvement of this capacity through appropriate training, institutional support and the establishment of networks and partnerships will be essential for the sustainable development of the sector.

David Signa
Davide Signa/FAO

These issues are addressed in general terms as well as through specific applications, e.g. for specific fisheries and inland water bodies.

An action plan for fish and fish products, food security, and nutrition is developed and fisheries and aquaculture are integrated within overall food security strategies.

The programme aims at establishing a planned process for achieving food security. The following four dimensions of food security are addressed:

  • Food availability: The availability of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality, supplied through domestic production or imports.
  • Food access: Access by individuals to adequate resources (entitlements) for acquiring appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.
  • Utilization: Utilization of food through adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care to reach a state of nutritional well-being where all physiological needs are met.
  • Stability: To be food secure, a population, household or individual must have access to adequate food at all times, with reduce risk of losing access to food due to sudden shocks.

The Programme assists with integrating fisheries and aquaculture into national and regional food security action plans. It also assists with the implementation of selected actions identified as especially relevant and which, inter alia, relate to:

  • Improved knowledge and preparedness to climate change impacts on fisheries
  • Capacity building in post harvest assessments;
  • Reduction of post harvest losses in the food chain;
  • The promotion of aquaculture;
  • Diversification initiatives in favour of coastal fisheries communities.


Latest publications

Click here to search documents published by the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department


Coming soon

  • National Fish Consumption Survey in Djibouti
  • Mobile campaign for PHLR on the Crab Value chain in Madagascar
  • Onboard Identification of Sharks and Rays Initiative in Comoros and Madagascar
  • IOC SmartFish Third Trade Event in (26-27 March, Uganda)

Learn More: http://www.smartfish-coi.org/

Contact us

Email: smartfish

In collaboration with:

Our institutional partners:

Lake Victoria Fisheries OrganizationLake Tanganyka Authority Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) Southern African Development Community (SADC) Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)

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