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Sao Tome and Principe sets course to more productive and sustainable coastal pelagics fisheries

Upgrading of value chain to meet growing domestic demand and reverse declining catches

23 March 2023, Sao Tome – A ten-year upgrading strategy for coastal pelagics fisheries in the Sao Tome and Principe was endorsed by key stakeholders today, marking the start of an overhaul of a sector that is key for food and nutrition security, aiming to make it more profitable and environmentally sustainable.   

“Coastal pelagics are a vital part of our countries’ fisheries and provide healthy, affordable food for many people,” said Carlos Pascual Pires dos Santos, Advisor to the Minister for Agriculture during a ceremony to launch an upgrading strategy for coastal pelagics fisheries in the African island nation. “However, we need to make this sector stronger to increase benefits to fishing communities and safeguard fish stocks for future generations.” 

The event marks the start of a wide-ranging, ten-year overhaul of the coastal pelagics sector, spearheaded by global fish value chain development program FISH4ACP in partnership with public and private sector stakeholders. The main goals are to satisfy growing domestic demand, increase benefits for local fishing communities and promote responsible management to reverse a trend of declining catches.  

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.  

“This plan touches on all dimensions of sustainable development, contributing to food and nutrition security, stimulating economic growth and lessening pressure on the environment,” said Rosário Bento Pais, the EU Ambassador to Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe and the ECCAS. She added: “FISH4ACP’s holistic approach makes it one of the flagship programs of the EU’s support to sustainable fisheries development.” 

Annual catches of coastal pelagic fish amount to nearly 8 500 tons with a sales value of over USD 4 million, according to a value chain analysis conducted last year by FISH4ACP and value chain stakeholders. The sector is largely artisanal with around 4 100 fishers and some 2 800 female fish traders.  

Similarly, the analysis found that 80% of catches are sold fresh on the local market, where species like flying fish, blue runner, little tunny and frigate tuna are a source of affordable and safe animal protein for many people, especially those with lower incomes.  

“FISH4ACP is supporting Sao Tome and Principe’s efforts to transform its aquatic food systems,” said Lionel Kinadjian​, acting FAO Representative for Sao Tome and Principe. He added: “FAO is happy to support such a blue transformation that contributes to the four betters at the heart of our efforts: Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment, and a Better Life, leaving no one behind.”   

Lionel Kinadjian explained that FISH4ACP is going to work with key public and private sector partners to strengthen cooperation in the value chain and build capacity promoting responsible fishing practices and improved skills in handling techniques, quality control and marketing.  

He added that FISH4ACP would also support improvements of the artisanal fleet and the cold chain, while working with authorities towards better stock assessment and fisheries management in order to safeguard aquatic resources for the benefit of people in Sao Tome and Principe who rely on them for their livelihoods and food security.