Eighth meeting of the West Africa Task Force

By Stop Illegal Fishing:20th May, 2019: Event Coverage

The West Africa Task Force (WATF) of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) held its eighth Task Force meeting in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire from the 8th to the 10th May 2019. Task Force Members attended the meeting together with observers representing the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the European Fisheries Control Agency, the Indian Ocean Commission Programme Régional de Surveillance des Pêches (IOC-PRSP) the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Regional Centre for Maritime Safety of West Africa (CRESMAO) and the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre for Zone F (MMCCs).

Opening the meeting, the representative of the Honourable Minister Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani stressed the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is one of the major challenges for sustainable fisheries in the Gulf of Guinea. “Our weak systems and lack of good governance have led to this region becoming a hot-spot for illegal fishing. This should be addressed through the operationalization of our regional cooperation through establishing joint patrols and taking steps to tackle illegal transhipment.”

The FCWC Secretary General, Mr Seraphin Dedi Nadje noted the importance of the continued regional cooperation, saying, “The West Africa Task Force is proving to be a successful driver in progressing our regional agenda. The establishment of the FCWC Regional Vessel Monitoring Centre (RVMC) in 2019 is a significant step, and will be critical in supporting the planned joint regional patrols. We recognise the importance of creating a well-governed maritime domain to support a sustainable and prosperous fishing industry. The growing cooperation with CRESMAO and the MMCCs will allow us to really develop our regional expertise and to take effective action against illegal fishing.”

Sharing experiences from the Western Indian Ocean, Mohammed Ali from the Indian Ocean Commission PSRP explained how joint patrols have been operated by eight collaborating countries, with an accumulated total of over 1000 hours of patrol time. Issues of jurisdiction and maritime disputed areas were discussed.

Noel Oboumou, representing CRESMAO, welcomed the planned joint patrols and stressed the importance of harmonising standard operating procedures and the critical importance of shared information on licensed vessels ahead of joint patrols. The alignment of procedures and systems was also identified as key to successful joint enforcement operations, with Commander Benning of MMCC Zone F stating, “We need a common framework for gathering, handling and handing over evidence in order to see through cases to successful prosecution.”

An action plan to implement the FCWC strategy to combat illegal transhipment at-sea was adopted by the Task Force. Per Erik Bergh, Stop Illegal Fishing Coordinator, commented, “Transhipment at-sea poses one of the greatest challenges to stopping illegally caught fish from entering the supply chain, and it undermines the oversight coastal, flag, market and port States need to ensure sustainable fisheries. The planned activities of the FCWC will provide valuable evidence of the scale and extent of illegal transhipment and this will be key to developing effective counter-measures.”

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