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The geographical area covered at this workshop includes both marine and inland fisheries in 12 countries of the eastern and southern African (ESA) region, namely, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The coastal fisheries on the eastern coast of Africa are characterized by two large marine ecosystems (LMEs). To the north, the Somali Current LME includes the coastal areas of Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. To the south, the Agulhas Current LME covers Mozambique, the Comoros Islands, Madagascar, and the eastern coast of the Republic of South Africa. The oceanic islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles fall outside these two LMEs. The coastal and marine ecosystems include a wide diversity of habitats that serve as important breeding, nursery and feeding grounds for many species. These include coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove forests, estuaries and lagoons, and areas of coastal upwellings.

The inland fisheries are dominated by three rift valley lakes - Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi/Nyasa, and Lake Tanganyika - which are located within the territories of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. To a lesser extent, rivers, small lakes, and man-made lakes and reservoirs contribute to inland fisheries production and fishery-related employment.

Artisanal fisheries exist along the coasts of all the countries in the region, and in lakes, rivers and other inland water bodies. At least 500,000 persons work directly in the primary fishing sector. About 2 mn people are employed in processing, trading, input supply and allied activities. Existing data most probably underestimate the number of people who are involved in, or depend on, the sector, particularly in the diverse inland fisheries sector.

With some notable exceptions, such as Seychelles and Mozambique, few countries in the region depend on fishing and fishery-related activities to contribute significantly to their gross domestic products and export earnings, and to overall employment and income. In most coastal and landlocked States, fishing is dominated by artisanal, small-scale and subsistence fisheries. Conflicts between the artisanal and industrial/trawling fleet have been reported from the mainland coastal States of east Africa, There have also been conflicts and arrests involving migrant fishermen both in inland waters and along the coasts of mainland States.

The yield from marine capture fisheries of the east African countries bordering the Indian Ocean was 378,337 tonnes in 2003, representing only about half a per cent of the global marine capture production. Despite these low catch levels, most of the region's coastal fish stocks are considered to be fully exploited. Another anomaly is that in the southwestern Indian Ocean, the contributions of coastal and oceanic fisheries are approximately equal, while generally coastal fisheries production far outweighs production from oceanic species such as tunas. The FAO has identified weak or non-existent data collection as a major management problem for the region. Further, as much as a third of the catches are not identified by species, making analysis of the status of stocks and management options difficult.

The western Indian Ocean -- a major tuna fishing ground -- is estimated to contribute to about three-fourths of the total tuna catches of about 998,000 tonnes (in 2002) from the Indian Ocean region. The proportion of total marine production caught by long-distance fleets, targeting tuna, off the eastern coast, has been increasing, with France, Spain and Asian countries like China, Taiwan Province of China and Japan being major players. Illegal fishing, mainly for tuna, is considered a big problem in the region, both within the EEZ and in the high seas.

The region is seen as one of the world's last areas where fishing activities are mostly unregulated, and where capacity, or effective institutional frameworks to exercise jurisdiction over the EEZ of most countries, is inadequate. Local capacity to target offshore resources is limited, though there are some reports of limited small-scale fishing for tuna. In such a context, t here is need to consider how to maximize the benefits of offshore fisheries resources to littoral States and their fishing communities, while ensuring the sustainability of the resource base.

East Africa is a region with large natural lakes (the Great Lakes) and varied inland waters; and inland fisheries are thus of great importance. Overexploitation of fish stocks is reported in inland waters, particularly in the export-oriented fisheries of Lake Victoria. This has been attributed to the rising demand from a growing population and from export markets; and poor regulation of the sector.

The livelihoods of small-scale fishworkers are affected by activities outside the fisheries sector that deplete or degrade resources. In some cases, there has been displacement of communities from coastal/shore lands. In response to the damaging impacts of human activities, increasing attention is being given to coastal area management initiatives and to the use of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). From all accounts, however, effective implementation continues to be a challenge. This has implications for the livelihoods of small-scale fishing communities. Non-participatory approach to the management of coastal and marine biodiversity, which alienate local populations, is another concern.

Aquaculture production is still in the very early stages of development in most countries of the region. Aquaculture accounted for only about 1.5 per cent of total fisheries production in 2003. In three countries, aquaculture is beginning to make a significant contribution to overall fisheries production-Tanzania (2%), Madagascar (5%) and South Africa (0.5%). The new emphasis on aquaculture, particularly on its export-oriented and intensive forms, should not be at the expense of ecosystems and biodiversity, and sustainable social and economic development.

With two exceptions (Seychelles and Mauritius), the ESA region is characterized by relatively low per capita fish supplies - well below the 10 kg average for developing countries. Fish also makes a relatively low overall contribution to protein supplies, except in the island states.

Socioeconomically, the region is generally seen as vulnerable. The Human Development Report 2005 classifies six of the 12 countries as reporting "low human development" — Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. The life expectancy in eight of them is below 50, and in three countries — Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe-it is below 40. Eight countries are part of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) grouping of the World Bank.