Progress and challenges in stopping illegal fishing in focus at West Africa Task Force meeting

By Stop Illegal Fishing:13th Jun, 2018: West Africa Task Force

The sixth meeting of the West Africa Task Force (WATF) held in Lomé, Togo from 5-7 June 2018 focussed discussions on progress made in the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) region in tackling illegal fishing.

Opening the meeting on behalf of the host country, Togo, Tezike Madadozi of the Ministry for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries said, ‘The West Africa Task Force shows the will and efforts of FCWC countries to fight Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. Our heads of States and leaders have given great importance to the fisheries sector, in Togo the President and his government value fisheries and the blue economy as key components of development. This meeting will allow the sharing of ideas, projects and initiatives, and will help to plan relevant actions. This will help to put in place robust monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) systems.’

Mr Madadozi welcomed participants from the six member States of the FCWC, Benin, Côte dIvoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo, and representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), the Maritime Security Regional Coordination Centre for Western Africa (CRESMAO), Stop Illegal Fishing and Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT).

FCWC Secretary General Seraphin Dedi emphasised the progress that has been made at the national and regional level under the West Africa Task Force. Mr Dedi commented, ‘As momentum builds with new funding support from the PESACO programme of the European Union we see opportunity for increased regional sharing and activity. No country alone has succeeded in fighting IUU fishing; we need to pool our resources and tools to be more effective. One of our priorities is to look at options for shared VMS data for FCWC members, not only will this bring increased information on fishing activity it will also establish a better knowledge base and provide a foundation for enforcement action.’

Speaking on behalf of ECOWAS Aboubacar Sidibe commented, ‘The West African Regional Fisheries Governance Improvement Program (PESCAO) is in the process of being launched, and its component on strengthening coordinating measures to prevent and combat IUU fishing in ECOWAS member states will add further support to the activities of the WATF. It is a priority of ECOWAS to support the strengthening of institutional regional coordination and we must take advantage of this 6th meeting of the WATF to put in place real collaboration and cooperation to ensure there is no unnecessary duplication of efforts to achieve our common goal, the complete eradication of IUU fishing in West Africa.

’‘I would also like to congratulate the FCWC for its tireless efforts in strengthening the MCS systems of the Member States and hope that this effort will continue in synergy with other initiatives in the region to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing in West Africa.’ Mr Sidibe added.

The Task Force meeting reviewed the newly adopted Regional Plan of Action to Combat IUU (RPOA-IUU) and reflected on the growing need for cooperation at a national level to tackle illegal fishing, fisheries crime and maritime security threats.

Duncan Copeland of TMT commented on the successful discussions held at the meeting, ‘This Task Force meeting has been an excellent reflection of the progress the WATF has made over the last 3 years. This meeting we have seen real engagement from the countries as well as real openness between the countries. This is building on the progress being made at the national level with increased communication and cooperation between agencies, all of which is helping to increase compliance in the fisheries sector.’ Commending the impressive progressive made to date by the WATF, Jan Thomas Odegard, Chair of TMT, commented, ‘We see that these Task Force meeetings are incredibly important for the sharing of information and the building of trust between WATF members.’

Mark Ssemakula, Stop Illegal Fishing, ‘SIF is excited to be part of the WATF and to support the work being done in the FCWC region. This meeting has provided a great opportunity to share the impacts, knowledge and experiences that we have gained from our work on the continent, particularly from the FISH-i Africa Task Force of the Western Indian Ocean.’

The WATF initiative brings together the six member countries of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) – Bénin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Togo – to tackle illegal fishing and stop the trade in illegally caught fish. The Task Force is facilitated by the FCWC Secretariat and supported by a Technical Team that includes Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT), Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF) with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). Through active cooperation, information sharing and facilitating the operations of national interagency working groups, the West Africa Task Force is working together to stop illegal fishing.

 

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One in four fish in Africa is caught illegally, this threatens the sustainability of fish stocks, damages the ecosystem and deprives governments of income and people of livelihoods.

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