Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement
The Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) entered into force on 21 June 2012. SIOFA is a legally-binding treaty, which aims to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the fishery resources in the agreement area through cooperation among its contracting parties.
To achieve this, SIOFA applies the following principles:
- Precautionary approach
- Ecosystem based approaches to fisheries management
- Development of effective monitoring, control and surveillance measures to ensure compliance
Australia is one of nine contracting parties to ratify the agreement. Other contracting parties include: the Cook Islands, the European Union, France – on behalf of its Indian Ocean Territories, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Thailand.
Australia ratified the agreement on 23 March 2012.
SIOFA also has five signatories that have not yet ratified the agreement, including: Comoros (cooperating non-contracting party), Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique and New Zealand.
SIOFA is headquartered on the French Island of Réunion.
SIOFA aims to take into account the needs of developing coastal states bordering the agreement area, in particular the least developed among them and small-island developing states. The agreement area covers the high seas between eastern Africa and Western Australia.
SIOFA is adjacent to the convention area of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in the south, the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) convention area in the east and the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) convention area to the west.
SIOFA covers fishery resources including fish, mollusks, crustaceans and other sedentary species within the area, though excludes highly migratory species and sedentary species subject to the fishery jurisdiction of coastal States. SIOFA also manages valuable fisheries, including for orange roughy, alfonsino and toothfish.
Australia plays a key role internationally in promoting strengthened environmental standards for fishing on the high seas.
Fish stocks of the southern Indian Ocean are important to the Australian fishing industry, which has been fishing in the area since the mid-1990s. Some fishery resources under the mandate of SIOFA may also straddle the Australian exclusive economic zone and may be important to domestic fisheries.
The Australian industry works through an industry coalition of operators from South Africa, Japan and the Cook Islands. This Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) was created as a mechanism to formalise, and bring legitimacy to, the international arrangements for the management of this vulnerable fishery to avoid a race to fish.
As a coastal state, it is important for Australia to ensure consistent and responsible management arrangements are used across the Indian Ocean to safeguard the interests of domestic industries that harvest these stocks.
Particular importance is given to the management of stocks of toothfish in the southern ocean adjacent to the SIOFA area by the Convention of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
Meeting of the parties
SIOFA does not automatically establish a commission. Instead, matters of substance are discussed at meetings of the parties.
As a contracting party to SIOFA, Australia can influence regional management measures adopted by the meetings of the parties to SIOFA, seek to ensure that these measures are compatible with Australia’s domestic management arrangements and secure access for the Australian fishing industry.
The functions of the meeting of the parties include:
- reviewing the state of fishery resources
- promoting research and cooperation
- adopting recommended international minimum standards for fishing
- developing rules and procedures for monitoring vessel compliance
- developing measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The meeting of the parties occurs annually with Mauritius hosting every second year and rotating between the parties in other years. SIOFA also holds annual meetings of its subsidiary bodies, including its scientific committee.
For more information on SIOFA see the SIOFA website.