Tenth FCWC Ministers Conference advances regional cooperation with agreements on information sharing and transhipment

By Stop Illegal Fishing:9th Jan, 2018: Event Coverage · Initiatives · West Africa Task Force

The tenth Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) Conference of Ministers was held in Abuja, Nigeria on 15th December 2017 bringing together Ministers and officials from the six FCWC Member States (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo) as well as representatives from regional, international and non-governmental organsiations.

Opening the meeting, His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria congratulated the FCWC on their tenth anniversary and highlighted the important role it plays in strengthening sub-regional cooperation in fisheries management, monitoring, surveillance and enforcement operations; and the development of the capacity of small-scale fishing operators in member countries, to create sustainable livelihoods.

Nigeria has approved the purchase of some patrol vessels for the Department of Fisheries, which will be managed in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy. These vessels will boost the search and rescue capacities of the relevant security agencies, deter illegal fishing and prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Vice President Osinbajo stressed that: “All six member-countries also need to deepen strategic cooperation, to harness the enormous fisheries potential in the Gulf of Guinea for the benefit of our people. I implore the Secretariat of the FCWC to prioritize the speedy sharing of information between member States, in order to more effectively checkmate the activities of foreign vessels fishing illegally within our territorial waters.”

Ministers approved a protocol on the pooling and sharing of information in the FCWC area that will enable agencies to secure information sharing between all partners and strengthen the capacity to end illegal fishing.

A strategy to tackle transhipment was also agreed by Ministers. Developed in response to the growing recognition of at sea transhipment as a major challenge for sustainable management of fisheries, as a key facilitator of illegal fishing and a means for illegally caught fish to enter the supply chain. Secretary General of the FCWC, Mr Seraphin Dedi Nadje commented, “Unauthorised at-sea transhipment is taking place between industrial fishing vessels who tranship catch to avoid oversight and inspection with fish being moved to refrigerated transport vessels, other industrial fishing vessels or to small scale fishing vessels and transport canoes. Our regional strategy will tackle this through the harmonisation of national legislation, the sharing of information and through stronger requirements for VMS and AIS for fishing vessels.”

Duncan Copeland, Executive Director of Trygg Mat Tracking, welcomed the introduction of the transhipment strategy. ““A complex seafood supply chain operates in the FCWC region and the West Africa Task Force has been monitoring high levels of illegal transhipment activity over the past years. This occurs in various forms – between industrial fishing vessels and small-scale vessels, between two industrial fishing vessels and between industrial fishing vessels and reefers – all of which require coordinated regional and national responses. Stronger controls on transhipment will increase compliance of licensing conditions, safety and sanitary requirements, and will also help to crack down on labour abuses at sea’’.

 

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