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São Tomé and Príncipe

Since late in 2004, The Pew Institute for Ocean Science has been advising the tiny island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe (STP) on establishing sustainable fisheries. One of Africa's smallest and poorest countries—where the people rely on fishing to supply most of their protein—STP's ocean resources are at risk due to considerable and largely unregulated exploitation, the fruits of which are not necessarily feeding the nations hungry populace. This endeavor promises a better future for the fishing industry and STP and could serve as a model for sustainable fisheries elsewhere in the developing world's highly stressed oceans.

São Tomé and Príncipe (STP) is an Island Nation in the Gulf of Guinea, and one of Africa’s smallest and poorest countries. Although the nation is surrounded by a vast oceanic territory, its economy has relied heavily on agriculture, particularly cocoa. STP’s future is now poised to change with the discovery of offshore oil reserves and potential for a brighter economic future.

Late in 2004, The Pew Institute for Ocean Science was commissioned by The Earth Institute at Columbia University to lend its expertise on the fisheries of STP. The Earth Institute is working in STP to develop a plan of action for sustainable economic development and to establish a framework for transparency in public expenditure of oil revenue. Fisheries have been identified as an economic sector central to poverty alleviation but the status of the sector and potential for growth was uncertain.

In November 2004 and February 2005, PIOS scientists conducted site visits to STP, gathering information about the sector through meetings with key fisheries department personnel, country ministers and President Fradique de Menezes. This work revealed that fisheries are essential to the nation’s health and welfare, with local fisheries supplying over 60% of the protein consumed by local populations and offshore fisheries providing vital revenue to the nation. Yet the team also found that improved sector management is imperative to secure long-term fisheries prosperity.

PIOS scientists have worked with STP to encourage practices that recognize the magnitude of fisheries resources and that move beyond a land-based economic focus, creating a future embracing sustainable use of marine fisheries. Efforts have focused on assisting São Tomé to become a regional leader, with a model program of well managed national fisheries and healthy marine environments.

More information

See the report outlining both near-term and long-term priorities

Link to the Earth Institute

Ellen Pikitch, PhD's bio

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