The Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) was invited to participate in the Our Ocean 2023 Conference, hosted by the Panamanian government. The FiTI Chair, Dr Valeria Merino, noted that throughout the event, speakers and participants from all sectors agreed that collecting, using, and sharing data is indispensable to ensure the future sustainability of marine fisheries.
Most countries recognize that better management of the fishing sector is a priority to achieve any meaningful level of sustainability and prevent legal overfishing. Also, there have been growing concerns about the impact of illegal fishing, and countries are increasing their monitoring and enforcement efforts. The FiTI advocated during the event that governments do not share enough information about the fisheries sector publicly with all stakeholders to ensure success in such efforts.
The FiTI’s key message was that no one could ensure the sustainability of marine species if all the relevant information about it is not shared broadly and is not up-to-date, complete, easy to find, understandable, and usable to enable participatory governance. This is the true meaning of fisheries transparency as a tool for sustainability.
The FiTI works to have governments embrace an international standard for transparency in marine fisheries management, the FiTI Standard. Also, the FiTI promotes a model to improve participatory governance by creating national multi-stakeholder groups to engage in policy discussions to advance sustainability.
Dr. Valeria Merino conveyed during her presentation in the plenary that the disclosure of information as detailed in the FiTI Standard and the active and informed participation of stakeholders is beneficial for all those that work to ensure the sustainability of marine fisheries. Whether focusing on improving management, conservation, traceability, opening new markets, reducing the incidence of IUU fishing, or even human rights violations, the FiTI helps to create a local ecosystem to sustain the above efforts over time. Finally, the FiTI process incorporates safeguards to prevent governments from using the FiTI as a ‘green label’.
The FiTI Chair issued a global call to action for countries to join the FiTI. The example of the Ecuadorian government in the region was especially highlighted. The FiTI delegation, comprised of the FiTI Chair, Latin American Coordinator Nicolas Rovegno, and Communications Officer Gustavo Crespo, met with government representatives from Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Panama, and others, to encourage them to join the FiTI and implement the FiTI Standard. The delegation also had conversations with representatives of the fishing sector, both industrial and small-scale, civil society organizations, the media, and international organizations to enlist their support.
The FiTI Chair participated also as a panelist in the launching event of a Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency hosted by the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency. She welcomed the efforts to grow a global movement of non-governmental actors towards transparency in fisheries. She also highlighted the Coalition’s support to the main tenants of the FiTI by having the Charter calling for “publishing all collected fisheries data and scientific assessments to facilitate access to information for small-scale fishers, fish workers, indigenous communities, industry associations, and civil society in developing fisheries rules, regulations, subsidies and fisheries budgets, and decisions on access to fisheries resources. Make these processes, policies, and decisions easily accessible to the public and enforcement agencies.” Dr. Merino offered that “the FiTI could support the new Coalition by helping its members use the FiTI Standard when advocating for the public disclosure of fisheries management information. It should be in everyone’s interest that such information follows shared technical guidelines to ensure the standardization of public fisheries data and a level playing field for all countries. FiTI provides technical guidelines for transparency in fisheries through its FiTI Standard, which includes a detailed explanation of the information that governments should collect and share publicly and advocates for such information to be up-to-date, complete, easy to find, and comprehensible/usable.”
Also, during the event, the FiTI launched its ‘TAKING STOCK‘ transparency assessments for Panama and the USA, two excellent examples of its evaluation of government transparency in marine fisheries against the FiTI Standard and a pathway to improvement. This flagship FiTI programme is changing how all interested parties understand fisheries transparency, making it clear, detailed, and comprehensive.
With its mission to promote transparency and accountability in global marine fisheries, the FiTI made waves towards sustainability at the Our Ocean Conference and beyond. It hopes that at the Our Ocean 2024 Conference in Greece, transparency becomes the top issue on the fisheries agenda.