FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO supports 30 000 small-scale fishers in Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles to preserve coral reef resources, thanks to Government of Japan funds

Sustainable and resilient livelihoods, food and marine security of fishing communities in African part of the Indian Ocean depends on strengthening coral reef health


2 February 2022, Moroni – Many artisanal fishers who access coral reefs experience a reduction in their income from fishing – that was reported commonly by the REEFFISH project regional steering committee members during their first two-days meeting, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Comoros.

Climate change, reef degradation, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, sand mining and overfishing, and poaching by neighboring countries threaten the fragile coral reef ecosystems. Small-scale fishing is under pressure and the reefs near the coasts show signs of overexploitation. Artisanal fishers have to navigate to more distant reefs than before, showing that reef fishing exploitation has increased over the years. In addition, fishers have to find fish resources in deeper waters than before, as shallow commercial fish species have been fully exploited. Due to the overexploitation of fish stocks in the region, countries lose millions of dollars every year.

The REEFFISH project aims to improve livelihoods and food and maritime security by strengthening the resilience of fishing communities that depend on fishing around coral reefs in the African part of the Indian Ocean. The key partners in the implementation of the project are the five governments through their line ministries responsible for fisheries, agriculture, the environment (for marine protected areas), defense (coast guard), maritime affairs, immigration, planning and finance.

“Their involvement in an effective collaboration and management response to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is crucial,” stressed Houmed M'Saide, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment, Tourism and Handicrafts of the Union of the Comoros. Other key partners are resource users such as fishers, fish processors, traders and fish exporters.

Strengthen resilience through social protection and knowledge sharing

According to Kitagawa Yasuhisa, Deputy Chief of Mission of Japan in Kenya "The overall result of the project will be sustainable reef-based fishing coral reefs, selected protected areas, increased youth employment, improved fish processing and marketing and, of course, increased resilience of coastal communities to external threats.”

The economic, social and political environments of the participating countries vary considerably. However, they all have in common an adherence to the promotion of the blue economy and blue growth, while protecting the marine environment in general and their fragile coral reef habitats in particular. “The social protection of fishing professionals is a priority on national agendas, while the strengthening of value chains for fish and other aquatic plants and animals is widely promoted,” he said.

The fisheries sectors in the target countries show different levels of development. For example, the tuna fishery and related processing industries in Seychelles form the economic backbone of the country, combined with tourism. Fishing, tourism and sugarcane production are the most important sectors in Mauritius, while Kenya and Madagascar have a wide range of economic activities; and Comoros is the least developed country in the target area when considering the fisheries sector.

“There are great differences in terms of activities implemented between the proposed countries, due to different situations in coral reef conservation and fisheries sectors. Therefore, approaches in different countries are not necessarily identical. Learning throughout the implementation of the project is therefore essential,” said FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel. 

A two-day technical workshop followed the two-day first regional steering committee of the project to promote regional collaboration and strengthen the harmonisation of protocols.

The USD 4.4 million REEFFISH project is funded by the Government of Japan for the five countries. This project agreement was established with FAO ahead of TICAD7 in August 2019.