Commitment and cooperation mark the ninth meeting of the West Africa Task Force

By Stop Illegal Fishing:3rd Oct, 2019:

The fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in West Africa is being led by the Fisheries Commission for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC), who through the West Africa Task Force (WATF), is building cooperation and commitment at the national, regional and international levels.

 

The ninth meeting of the West Africa Task Force, hosted by the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) of Liberia in Monrovia on September 24-26 September 2019, welcomed participation from the six FCWC member States, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo, as well as neighbouring Cameroon and Sierra Leone.

 

FCWC Secretary General, Seraphin Dedi Nadje, commented, “Cooperating and actively sharing information between neighbouring coastal and port States is one of the most effective tools that we have to beat the IUU operators. I am delighted that Cameroon and Sierra Leone have participated as observers in the WATF. This will bring benefits to us all, and marks a real maturing of our task force.”

 

Dr Aboubacar Sidibe, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), stated, “The WATF is an excellent platform for cooperation, collaboration and communication to end illegal fishing and improve governance. It is very important for us to encourage this platform and build on it.’

 

The Honorable Emma Glassco, Director General of NaFAA opened the meeting and applauded the steps being made regionally to combat illegal fishing. She said, “Vessel registration, vessel monitoring, observer programs and patrol missions at national level are not enough to fight against IUU. There is a need to expand our efforts beyond the national level to the regional level by forming synergies. The FCWC is driving this agenda for us.”

 

Regional initiatives discussed by the WATF included the move towards a regional register of vessels, joint regional patrols, the installation of a regional vessel monitoring centre, and the implementation of a regional strategy on transshipment.

 

Duncan Copeland, Trygg Mat Tracking, noted that, “In the past few months we have had the most active period of communication and cooperation within the Task Force since it was founded in 2015. Reglar WATF meetings provide a real and valuable opportunity for officials from neighbouring coastal and port States in the FCWC region to establish contact, exchange information and progress the regional agenda to stop illegal fishing. This meeting will help us to identify clear and concrete activities that can be taken forward by the Task Force at the regional and national levels, and clear and concrete ways that we can provide the technical support to those activities.”

 

The implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) was also discussed with capacity building and interagency cooperation challenges shared. Per Erik Bergh, Stop Illegal Fishing, commented, “The FCWC region has shown strong support for the PSMA, with four of the six members are now party to the agreement. This gives a real opportunity to close this region down for illegally caught and traded fish.”

 

Augustine M. Manoballah, Deputy Director of NaFAA confirmed that the Liberia national fisheries law is now in force, having received presidential approval. “This will make Liberia’s national progress in implementing the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) more effective, and we stand ready to support and implement the PSMA and the outcomes of this WATF meeting.”

 

The meeting provided an opportunity to launch the ‘Document Verification Manual: Vessel Identity’ developed by Stop Illegal Fishing and Trygg Mat Tracking to support capacity building in the FISH-i Africa and West Africa Task Forces, and will also support Stop Illegal Fishing’s work to support the implementation of port State measures (PSM-SIF) in selected African countries. Mr Dedi welcomed the publication. He said, “ Practical publications like the Document Verification Manual provide valuable resources to build the capacity of our fisheries officers in West Africa. The Manual will provide the focus for training activities in the coming months, and will then be put forward for adoption by the FCWC. This will help to better identify and shut down illegal fishing operations and stop vessels involved in illegal fishing from operating.”

 

The six member States of the Fisheries Commission of the West Central Gulf of Guinea form the core of the WATF, and are supported by a technical team made up of Stop Illegal Fishing and Trygg Mat Tracking, with financial support from Norad and from the EU, through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) hosted PESCAO project.

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