New project to map octopus fishing in the Western Indian Ocean

A first of its kind project will provide African fishers with a benchmark for sustainable octopus fishing

Government representatives, fisheries managers, private sector representatives and octopus fishers operating in the south western Indian Ocean (SWIO) have committed to collaborate in a new project supported by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Africa Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and Blue Ventures.

The project will use the MSC Fisheries Standard to benchmark the sustainability of octopus fishing in the region. It will then identify opportunities to support stakeholder efforts to improve the sustainability of these fisheries in Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Mozambique, Rodrigues and Comoros, among others.

This will be first time that the sustainability of octopus fishing has been comprehensively mapped across multiple African countries and offers conservation and market opportunities.

The importance of octopus in the Western Indian Ocean

Artisanal fishing for octopus, mainly Octopus cyanea, has been practiced for centuries in the SWIO. Octopus are an important resource for many coastal communities, especially in Tanzania, Madagascar, Rodrigues and Mozambique, and are both consumed locally and sold for export to Europe

With the first octopus fishery achieving MSC certification in early 2016 (Western Asturias trap octopus fishery, Spain), interest in sustainably sourced octopus is growing. Supporting fisheries in the SWIO region to enter fisheries improvement projects (FIPs), targeting eventual MSC certification, therefore provides an unparalleled opportunity to capitalise on this rising demand

Collaboration is key

On 15th and 16th March 2017, stakeholders met in Zanzibar to mark the start of the project. Implementation will involve close collaboration with AU-IBAR and Blue Ventures. AU-IBAR is working to implement the new Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Africa, of which a key objective is to achieve responsible and equitable markets for seafood. Blue Ventures will share expertise gained from another project to improve the sustainability of octopus fishing in Madagascar.

Commenting on the launch, Mr. Obinna Anozie representing the Director and Head of Mission of AU-IBAR congratulated the countries on their commitment to the project: “We are very pleased to be involved in a project of this magnitude, greatly supported by regional leadership and aimed at ensuring food security and the livelihoods of western Indian Ocean communities.”

Dr Oluyemisi Oloruntuyi of the MSC added, “It’s encouraging to see the uptake of the MSC Fisheries Standard as a tool for benchmarking and facilitating change in global fisheries. The MSC Standard is widely accepted as the most rigorous and scientifically-based certification scheme for wild-caught fisheries and, increasingly is being seen as a tool for guiding fishery improvements.”

The meeting this week builds on an earlier regional stakeholder workshop in 2014, which recognised that improving the management of Africa’s small-scale fisheries can deliver sustained benefits throughout the seafood supply chain, benefiting coastal communities while rebuilding dwindling fish stocks. This pre-assessment project is a positive step towards making this a reality.

The fishing industry is critically important in the developing world;


  • Half of the world’s traded seafood comes from developing countries;
  • Millions of people rely on seafood for an essential source of nutrition;
  • The World Bank estimate that the livelihoods of about 200 million people depend on fishing and associated activities.


Ensuring fisheries remain healthy, productive and profitable is vital for millions of people living in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. We recognise that developing country fisheries often face specific challenges in moving towards MSC certification. This can include lack of awareness about the MSC, poor fisheries management, lack of government support, cost of certification or lack of data.


The MSC Developing World Program seeks to ensure that developing country fisheries can access the environmental and economic benefits of MSC certification, and help to safeguard fisheries as a reliable, long term source of food security.

Aims of the Developing World Program:


Raise awareness

We engage with a wide range of stakeholders including government, non-governmental organisations, the fishing industry and seafood businesses. We work with them to raise awareness of our certification and ecolabelling program and increase developing world fishery participation.


Ensure accessibility of the MSC Fisheries Standard

We work to ensure that the Standard is applicable to small-scale and developing country fisheries. The MSC Capacity Building Program supports global fisheries improving towards sustainability and achieving MSC certification.


Various tools are available to support fisheries improving towards MSC certification.


Ensure developing world interests are represented

We seek to ensure that the perspectives of small-scale and data-deficient fisheries are considered in policy development. We encourage stakeholders to provide input and shape MSC policy during our public consultation periods.

Blue Ventures empowers tropical coastal communities to manage their own resources, developing human rights-based fisheries management approaches aiming to sustain local fisheries and safeguard marine biodiversity. Blue Venture’s current models, which include aquaculture, efforts to unlock and market the carbon sequestration value of marine vegetation (blue carbon), ecotourism, integrated conservation and health programming, rebuilding fisheries, and locally managed marine areas, share a common theme of inspiring local leadership in marine management by demonstrating that effective marine conservation is in everyone’s interest.


AU-IBAR provides leadership in the development of animal resources for Africa. It does this by supporting and empowering the African Union Member States and Regional Economic Communities. AU-IBAR, a specialised technical arm of the African Union Commission was founded in 1951 and has a mandate that extends to cover all aspects of animal resources including fisheries and wildlife across the entire Africa continent.


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