Nelson Mandela University’s director of the Centre for Law in Action has been appointed to lend his legal expertise to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to combat illegal and unregulated fishing in the region.

Prof Hennie van As, who is also the head of SA’s Fisheries Law Enforcement Academy, FishFORCE, at the university, has been appointed as legal expert on the board of directors of Sadc’s Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance Co-ordination Centre.

The centre was established in 2023 and the board was appointed by Sadc ministers of agriculture, food security, fisheries and aquaculture for a period of two years.

The term of the board officially started on June 1.

Van As said being on the centre’s board would enable him to accelerate his work, and to recommend laws and policies related to regional fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance.

“[This will also enable me to] approve and monitor budgets, evaluate action plans, and provide guidance on how best to collaborate in cross-border and international fisheries crime control.

“This is essential in view of the increase in illegal activities associated with fisheries,” Van As said.

The Maputo-based Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance Co-ordination Centre is a joint effort of the 14 Sadc member states to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the region.

It also seeks to protect small-scale fisheries and secure the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on fish and other living resources from the Indian Ocean and inland freshwater sources.

The centre’s targets align with those of the FishFORCE academy of SA that was established in 2016 at NMU with funding from the Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs.

“FishFORCE’s purpose is to reduce organised crime in the fisheries environment, and to combat the illegal harvesting of marine and freshwater living resources with the ultimate aim to ensure food security,” Van As said.

According to research released at the end of October 2022 by the Financial Transparency Coalition, Africa was losing an estimated $25bn (R466.88bn) year to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing run by organised crime syndicates.

SA was also estimated to be losing at least $60m (R1.12bn) a year due to perlemoen poaching alone.

FishFORCE has already been replicated in countries such as Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Mauritius, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia, where it is training fisheries control officers, police officers and prosecutors.

Organised fisheries crime ranges from illegal fishing to human trafficking and forced labour, fraud, forgery, corruption, money laundering and tax and customs evasion.