The Need for Transparency and Participation
Global fisheries are a critical source of jobs, food, and trade for millions of people around the world. Over 500 million people, or nearly 8% of the global population, work in fishing and fish processing. Wild caught fish from the sea, lakes and rivers provide an important source of protein and nutrients for millions of people, including those that are food insecure. And, over the last few decades, fish has become one of the world’s most traded food products, now worth an estimated US$137 billion per year.
But our fisheries face an uncertain future. Overfishing, ecosystem damage and climate change threaten many fish stocks. Social and political pressures build when coastal communities lose access to high quality, affordable fish, which goes to international markets instead. Furthermore, contribution of fisheries to development remains disappointing in many places, particularly for the small-scale sector that accounts for 90% of the global workforce in fisheries.
We therefore face a tremendous task of reforming governance of global fisheries in ways that support sustainable use of ecosystems, development and food security.
In meeting this challenge, there is increasing international agreement that the way forward must address poor governance at the national and international level. This includes addressing the chronic lack of transparency in fisheries management. In many countries contracts are kept confidential, preventing oversight of who has which fishing rights, and at what cost. Information on subsidies, private investments and aid to the fisheries sector remains hard to obtain and verify. There is also often limited participation or oversight by civil society on key fisheries management decisions.
The need for transparency and participation has been central to major fisheries reform efforts, including: Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 2012); the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 2015) as well as the Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation and access to Justice in Environmental Matters (UNEP, 2010); the Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Africa (African Union, 2014); and the EU’s latest Common Fisheries Policy.
Many other examples show that governments, international organizations, companies and civil society organizations are making transparency a key component of their fisheries reform efforts.
But progress has been limited and inconsistent. This is partly because no global consensus exists on which information should be publicly available. Important policy agreements and guidelines refer to transparency reforms in general terms, but do not specify the details.
The Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI)
The Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) is a global multi-stakeholder initiative, which aims at enhancing responsible and sustainable fisheries through transparency and participation.
Transparency: The FiTI will increase transparency by regularly publishing information regarding ‘access to marine fisheries’. This includes, inter alia, who has the right to fish (e.g. rights holders, vessels, license agreements), how much is paid for the right to fish, and how much fish is extracted. The information will cover large-scale fisheries as well as small-scale fisheries.
Participation : The FiTI will enhance the credibility of the provided information through a deliberative process, which involves all major stakeholder groups (i.e. government, companies, civil society). Over time, this approach will help establish a trust-based, consensus-oriented multi-stakeholder environment for collective action.
Increased transparency and multi-stakeholder participation provide a credible basis for national debate. They also create positive competition amongst countries and companies to enhance responsible fisheries.
- The FiTI is a global initiative. The initiative does not focus on a single country or a region. It seeks to establish a global level playing field among fisheries countries. The more participating countries, the more power this initiative will get!
- The implementation of the FiTI is country-centered. The intention to join the FiTI and the initiation of the official process must come from a country’s government. For this, a country’s government must demonstrate active support for the implementation of the FiTI. This includes – inter alia – the commitment to an enabling environment, the establishment of a National Multi-Stakeholder Group and the publication of timely information.
- The FiTI is a voluntary initiative with mandatory requirements. The implementation of the FiTI is voluntary; however, once a country has decided to participate, mandatory requirements must be followed.
- The FiTI in built on a multi-stakeholder governance structure, ensuring that stakeholders from government, companies and civil society are equally represented.
- This multi-stakeholder governance will be applied at an international level through an International Multi-Stakeholder Board as well as in all participating countries through National Multi-Stakeholder Groups.
- The FiTI will provide clear procedural guidelines for gathering, verifying and disclosing relevant information on fisheries. A key deliverable of this process is the timely publication of a FiTI Country Report.
Fisheries are a critical source of jobs, food, and trade for millions of people around the world. But due to challenges like overfishing, ecosystem damage, human rights violations, conflicting interests from other sectors and limited consideration in national policy processes, fisheries face an uncertain future. Strengthening transparency and participation in fisheries yields benefits on national, regional and international level that support responsible and sustainable fisheries for development and food security.
By promoting transparency and participation in fisheries, the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) yields benefits for all stakeholders:
- The FiTI provides credible and comprehensive information which is relevant to improve fisheries management, allowing for better and democratic decision making.
- The FiTI establishes a trust-based, consensus-oriented multi-stakeholder environment for collective action.
These general benefits can be further specified for each stakeholder group:
- Governments of host countries benefit from an enhanced political reputation by demonstrating a clear commitment to good governance for responsible fisheries. This can lead to increased trust and an improved contracting, trade and investment environment.
- Governments of host countries as well as their fisheries partners benefit equally by demonstrating that the country is getting a fair deal for its fishery resources, contributing to greater economic and political stability and food security.
- Industrial fishing companies benefit from an enhanced reputation in the market and a ‘level playing field’ where all companies provide information according to a coherent framework.
- Small-scale fishers benefit from an increased recognition of their contribution to the country’s food security and development, while improved transparency supports responsible governance of tenure that is needed for securing sustainable small-scale fisheries.
- Civil Society Organizations, workers and consumers benefit from an enhanced ability to hold governments and companies accountable through an increased amount of information in the public domain. Furthermore, civil society organizations will benefit from greater involvement in the production of credible information on fisheries, being recognized as an equal stakeholder in the country’s national Multi-Stakeholder Group.
The conceptual phase of the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) is supported by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
01 April 2015 – 31 January 2016: 290 000 EUR
01 March 2016 – 28 February 2017: 267 797 EUR
Furthermore, the conceptual phase is also supported by the Government of the Republic of Guinea:
01 July 2016 – 30 June 2017: 94 566 EUR
These contributions include a support for both governments in implementing the first sign-up steps as well as the development of the detailed international Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) Framework.