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  1. Introduction
  2. Mandate
  3. History
  4. Legal framework
  5. Area of competence
  6. Species and stocks coverage
  7. Languages
  8. Members
  9. Structure
  10. EIMS Publications Database
  11. Contact

The Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) is a regional fisheries advisory body established in 2004 through the FAO Council Resolution 1/127 under Article VI to promote the sustainable utilization of the living marine resources of the Southwest Indian Ocean.

Institutionally, regional fisheries in SWIO are being addressed through three RFB/RFMOs, namely IOTC (all SWIOFC members belong to IOTC), SWIOFC and SIOFA (three SWIOFC members have adhered to SIOFA), as well as Regional Economic Communities, namely the Southern African Development Community (seven shared members) and Indian Ocean Commission (four shared members); all with clear distinct mandates. The above institutions do collaborate or are planning to collaborate on several issues such as the sharing of scientific and technical information by the SWIOFC; as well as issues relating to a SWIOFC instrument recently adopted, the Guidelines on Minimum Terms and Conditions for Foreign Fisheries Access to the SWIOFC region (MTC), which provides a framework for the SWIOFC to collaborate with the IOTC, IOC, and SADC to collaborate on issues of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing (IUU), and in the coordination of Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS).

The SWIOFC also keeps an updated database of initiatives and projects related to fisheries development, management, and research in the SWIO region; for Member institutions to use the regional database when designing or deciding to participate in new initiatives, thus improving the chances for synergies and reducing overlap between initiatives.


The main objective of the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) is to promote the sustainable utilization of the living marine resources of the Southwest Indian Ocean region, thorough the proper management and development of the living marine resources, and to address common problems of fisheries management and development faced by the Members of SWIOFC, without prejudice to the sovereign rights of coastal States. SWIOFC promotes the application of the provisions of the FAO Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries, including the precautionary approach and the ecosystem approach to fisheries management. SWIOFC functions and responsibilities of the Commission include:

  • to contribute to improved governance through institutional arrangements that encourage cooperation amongst members;
  • to help fishery managers in the development and implementation of fishery management systems that take due account of environmental, social and economic concerns;
  • to keep under review the state of the fishery resources in the area and the industries based on them;
  • to promote, encourage and coordinate research related to the living marine resources in the area and draw up programmes required for this purpose, and to organize such research as may be necessary;
  • to promote the collection, exchange, dissemination and analysis or study of statistical, biological, environmental and socio-economic data and other marine fishery information;
  • to provide a sound scientific basis to assist Members in taking fisheries management decisions;
  • to provide advice on management measures to member governments and competent fisheries organizations;
  • to provide advice and promote co-operation on monitoring, control and surveillance, including joint activities, especially as regards issues of a regional or sub-regional nature;
  • to encourage, recommend and coordinate training in the areas of interest of the Commission;
  • to promote and encourage the utilization of the most appropriate fishing craft, gear, fishing techniques and post harvesting technologies.

1999: In June 1999, the 116 session of the FAO Council, through Resolution 1/116, decided to abolish the Indian Ocean Fishery Commission (IOFC), together with all its subsidiary bodies, including the Committee for the Development and Management of Fisheries in the South West Indian Ocean (SWIO). That decision followed the agreement by the Committee on Fisheries, at its Twenty-second Session, in 1997, and the wish expressed by IOFC itself, through a recommendation, adopted at its Eleventh Session, in February 1999, calling for its abolition and advocating, at the same time, that SWIO be established as an Article XIV body under the FAO Constitution. Resolution 1/116 also authorized the Director-General to convene ad hoc meetings of the members of the former Committee (Comoros, France on behalf of its overseas territories, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania), in order to complete the process of establishment of the new body and to take such interim action that might be required regarding the management of the fisheries resources of the areas covered by the former committee, pending the formal establishment of the new organization during the period preceding their formal conversion into an Article XIV body.

2001: During the Second Intergovernmental Consultation on the establishment of the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (Madagascar, September 2001) participants became divided between the high seas fishing nations, which advocated an agreement outside the framework of FAO, and developing coastal States, which did not accept such change of course.

2004: During the Third Consultation (Nairobi, January 2004), the delegations decided to divide the agreement into two different instruments: one for the areas under the jurisdiction of coastal states, and another one for the high seas. In the first case, the Consultation agreed that the new fisheries body, aiming at the management and development of coastal fisheries, should have advisory powers only and therefore should be established under Article VI(1) of the FAO Constitution. In the case of the high seas, however, the Consultation agreed that a regional fisheries management organization or arrangement should be established, with the necessary powers to take binding decisions on conservation and management measures of the exploited resources. During the same Consultation, a draft FAO Council Resolution for the SWIOFC, under Article VI(1) of the FAO Constitution, with its statutes attached, was much advanced, leaving only a few provisions to be finalized at the following meeting.

Finally, during the Fourth Intergovernmental Consultation on the establishment of a South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (Mahé, July 2004) the draft Resolution for the establishment of the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission, as well as its Statutes, were unanimously adopted and then submitted to the FAO Council for approval, as a Regional Fisheries Body under Article VI(1) of the FAO Constitution. Then, on November 25th, 2004, the FAO Council, at its Hundred and Twenty-seventh Session, adopted Resolution 1/127, establishing the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC).

2005: The SWIOFC held its First Session in Mombasa, Kenya, from 18 to 20 April 2005. Ironically, the SWIOFC developed from the desire of the FAO Article VI Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission to become a FAO Article XIV body, but after five and a half years of negotiations, the SWIOFC was again established as a FAO Article VI(1) body.

The SWIOFC milestones are the following:

  • 2004: Establishment of SWIOFC
  • 2005: Adoption of the Rules of Procedure; Establishment of the Scientific Committee; Establishment of the Programme of Work for the Commission.
  • 2006: Approval of the Establishment of the Working Group on Fisheries Data and Statistics; Agreement to link with SWIOFP through an Ad-Hoc Steering Committee.
  • 2007: Endorsement for Mozambique to set up an Informal Network of Heads of MCS.
  • 2009: Establishment of a Regional Steering Committee for EAF Nansen Project
  • 2011: Endorsement of the project proposal for SWIOFish.
  • 2012: Performance review of SWIOFC and priority areas for the futureEstablishment of the Working Party for Coordination and Cooperation in Tuna Fisheries (WPCCTF)EAF Nansen work in SWIO region
  • 2014: SWIO Regional meeting on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
  • 2015: Approval of the revised Rules of Procedure
  • 2015: Establishment of the Regional Steering Committee for SWIOFish1
  • 2017: Establishment of the Working Group of the Scientific Committee on Demersal Fisheries
  • 2017: Establishment of the Working Group of the Scientific Committee on Small Pelagic Fisheries
  • 2019: Approval of the Guidelines on Minimum Terms and Conditions for Foreign Fisheries Access to the SWIOFC region (MTC).
  • 2018: Endorsement of a project proposal for partnerhip programme between the FAO/SWIOFC and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/Nairobi Convention (NC)
  • 2019: Signing of a memorandum of Understanding between the FAO/SWIOFC and UNEP/NC
  • 2021: Establishment of the Steering Committee of the SWIOFC and Nairobi Convention Partnership Programme
  • 2021: Establishment of the SWIOFC Working Group of the Scientific Committee on Fisheries Socio-Economics
Legal framework Area of competence

The area of competence of the Commission shall be all waters of the Indian Ocean (including those under the national jurisdiction of Member States), bounded by a line drawn as follows: from a point on the high water mark on the East African coast at latitude 10° 00 N, thence due east along this parallel to the longitude 65°00 E, thence due south along this meridian to the equator, thence due east along this parallel to the longitude 80° 00 E, thence due south along this meridian to a parallel 45° 00 S, thence due west along this parallel to the longitude 30° 00 E, thence due north along this meridian to the coast of the African Continent.

SWIOFC area of competence - National waters
The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers and boundaries. Dashed lines on maps represent approximate border lines for which there may not yet be full agreement.
Species and stocks coverageAll living marine resources. LanguagesEnglish, French. MembersThe Commission is composed of such Members and Associate Members of the FAO that are coastal States, whose territories are situated wholly or partly within the area of the Commission, and can join by notifying, in writing, the Director-General their interest in becoming a member of the Commission.

Current membership: Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, United Rep. of Tanzania, Yemen.

StructurePrincipal body

Commission: is the governing body of SWIOFC. It is composed of all Members. Meetings of the Commission are held at least once every two years. The Commission has a Scientific Committee, a Working Party on Collaboration and Cooperation in Tuna Fisheries; and may establish, on an ad hoc basis, such other committees or working parties as it may consider necessary.

Scientific Committee: was created during the first Session of the Commission, held in Mombasa in 2005 to consider the state of fisheries in the area of competence of the Commission and to advise on the scientific basis for possible regulatory measures to be considered for adoption by Members of the Commission.

Bureau: is formed by the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the Commission, with the function of acting as a steering committee during Sessions of the Commission and in the intersessional period.

Working Groups: are created by the Commission to serve a specific subject. There are currently two working groups: the Working Group on Fisheries Data and Statistics, the Working Party for Coordination and Cooperation in Tuna Fisheries and the Working Group on Demersal and Small Pelagic Fishes.

Secretariat: is provided by FAO Subregional Office for Southern Africa (SFS) that is based in Harare, Zimbabwe. However, since September 2015 the SWIOFC Secretariat has been moved to Maputo, Mozambique, hosted in the premises of the Administração Nacional das Pescas (ADNAP).

EIMS Publications Database Media materials Web sources


SWIOFC Secretariat

Vasco Schmidt, SWIOFC Secretary ad interim

FAO Subregional Office for Southern Africa

Administração Nacional das Pescas (ADNAP)

Rua Consiglieri Pedroso, 347, Maputo - Mozambique

Telephone: +258 21 080 489

Email: SWIOFC-Secretariat

Email: vasco.schmidt

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