Tenth meeting of the West Africa Task Force celebrates progress to end illegal fishing

By Stop Illegal Fishing:14th Oct, 2021: West Africa Task Force

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

 

The tenth meeting of the West Africa Task Force was held in Ghana on 13 – 17 September 2021. Participation of the directors and heads of monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) from the FCWC Member States, Technical Team members, and representatives of partner organizations was though in-person and online attendance.

 

The meeting focused on activities advancing regional cooperation and coordination to fight IUU fishing, including the successful launch of the FCWC Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Centre (RMCSC) in May 2021.

 

FCWC Secretary General Seraphin stated, “The RMCSC provides a solid base for future activity. We now have well established information sharing and communication channels, developed through the WATF. The additional oversight of fishing and vessel activity provided by the development of the FCWC regional VMS and a strengthened regional approach through the development of standard operating procedures. This will improve our ability to conduct systematic due diligence and risk assessments, and thereby better identify illegal activity and illegal operators.”

 

This oversight will see further strengthening though the development of a regional observer programme, discussed at the meeting. The programme is planned to launch before the end of 2021, with the objectives to monitor the implementation of appropriate fisheries laws and to collect verified catch data, other scientific data, and additional information related to fishing activity within the waters under the jurisdiction of FCWC Member States.

 

Joint patrols are also planned for October/November 2021 for Togo and Benin. It is hoped this will provide proof of concept for joint-nation maritime patrol operations as well as improve the tactical proficiencies of participating units.

 

Per Erik Bergh, Stop Illegal Fishing, commented, “Cooperation between countries with shared maritime boarders to patrol their waters in respect to fishing and fisheries related activity is an excellent opportunity. If offers not only the chance to jointly monitor what activity is taking place and where, but also to share experiences and to build capacity and knowledge about fisheries related activities within the FCWC region. It is great to see these patrols becoming a reality and offering this practical on-the-job interaction between the regions’ fisheries inspectors.”

 

The WATF also discussed ongoing progress in implementation of port state measures throughout the region. This is a key challenge as FCWC members build cooperation with national agencies to ensure that the correct information is shared in a timely manner ahead of vessels arrival in port. Developing strong mechanisms to check on the vessel’s activity, identity and catch is vital to making informed decisions on port entry and to prioritise inspection capacity.

 

Participants paid a visit to the RMCSC on the fourth day, where RMCSC Coordinator, Godfrey Baidoo-Tsibu demonstrated the capabilities of the VMS system.

 

The tenth WATF meeting was attended by representatives from the FCWC Member States, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF), and Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT).

 

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 Trygg Mat Tracking and Stop Illegal Fishing, with financial support from Norad and from the EU, through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) hosted PESCAO project. 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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The Issues

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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Creating change by informing policy and practice, our hands on experience and investigative work means we are often the first to spot new trends and find ways to challenge these.

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Illegal fishing is a complex issue that requires multifaceted responses. Stop Illegal Fishing are working with a range of organisations to bring about change.

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