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Sao Tome and Principe is moving to more productive and sustainable coastal pelagic fisheries

Upgrading fishery to meet growing domestic demand and reverse declining catches

6 November 2023, Sao Tome – Progress at making coastal pelagic fisheries in Sao Tome and Principe more profitable and environmentally sustainable was showcased today, as a report outlining an overhaul of this sector that is key for food and jobs on the African island nation was presented to media.    

“Coastal pelagics provide healthy and affordable food to our people. They are also an important source of income,” said Graciano Espirito Costa, Adviser of the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, highlighting first steps to make the coastal pelagic value chain more productive and sustainable, as he presented an analysis and upgrading strategy of the sector to the media. “However, work is needed to increase benefits to fishing communities and safeguard fish stocks for future generations.” 

Annual catches of coastal pelagics like flying fish, blue runner, little tunny and frigate tuna, represent nearly 60 per cent of Sao Tome and Principe’s total fish catches, according to the value chain analysis by global fish value chain development program FISH4ACP and key partners. With over half of protein consumption coming from fish, this makes coastal pelagics a vital source of affordable food in Sao Tome and Principe.  

In 2021, annual catches of coastal pelagics were estimated at nearly 8 500 tons, the analysis found, of which 80% were sold fresh on the local market at a sales value of over USD 4 million. The analysis also raised concern over the sustainability of fish stocks and the impact of coastal pelagic fishing on biodiversity and ecosystems.  

Now, the first steps to upgrade the coastal pelagic sector are being taken, as part of a ten-year strategy to satisfy growing domestic demand, increase benefits for local fishing communities and promote responsible management to reverse a trend of declining catches.  

A frame survey, which will provide local authorities with vital information to plan the management of Santomean fisheries, has been completed. When discussions on the management plan start later in November, attention will need to be given to a 25 percent increase in the number of boats to over 2 700 in just four years since the latest survey in 2019. 

At the same time, capacity building to promote improved skills in handling techniques, safety at sea and boat building is about to start. A training of trainers on managing revolving funds scheduled for December will subsequently be imparted in five fishing communities, helping them to manage investments in cold chain equipment, transportation, or the development of new products. 

São Tomé and Príncipe is one of the twelve countries where FISH4ACP, an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) implemented by FAO with funding from the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), works to strengthen fish value chains.  

“Upgrading coastal pelagic fisheries in Sao Tome and Principe touches on all dimensions of sustainable development, improving food and nutrition security, boosting the economy and reducing the fisheries’ ecological footprint,” said Lukas Micka, EU Program Officer at the EU Delegation to Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe and ECCAS. He added: “This holistic approach sets FISH4ACP apart as one of the EU’s flagship programs in support of sustainable fisheries development.” 

“FAO helps Sao Tome and Principe with a blue transformation of its coastal pelagic fisheries,” said Athman Mravili, FAO Sub Regional Coordinator for Central Africa. He added: “We are happy that FISH4ACP contributes to the four betters at the heart of FAO’s efforts: Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment, and a Better Life, leaving no one behind.”