Using innovative technology to increase oversight for safe, fair and legal fisheries in the FCWC region

By Stop Illegal Fishing:20th Dec, 2021: West Africa Task Force

The 13th session of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) Ministerial Conference took place on 17 December 2021 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. It was preceded by a two-day Advisory and Consultative Session where the directors of ministries responsible for fisheries and the heads of MCS reviewed working documents and prepared recommendations for adoption.

 

Discussions focussed around the FCWC 2022 theme, ‘Using innovative technology to increase oversight for safe, fair and legal fisheries’. FCWC Secretary-General, Seraphin Dedi stated, “We selected a technology-focused theme for 2022 because the region and our partners have demonstrated how technology can be innovatively used to surmount the challenges that COVID-19 presents to our activities. This is our first in-person Conference of Ministers since COVID-19 struck, so we are eager to use this opportunity to celebrate the resilience that our region and partners have shown, and to further explore the ways technology can be used to improve our fisheries.”

 

The need for increased oversight comes from growing evidence, both within the FCWC sub-region and internationally, that vessels that fish illegally also fail to comply with safety regulations and requirements. Crew are often subjected to poor living and working conditions, and in some cases to forced labour and physical abuse. While these failures have common drivers – to avoid oversight, reduce costs, and to avoid sanctions and enforcement – they all take place within the fisheries sector, often on the same vessels and involve the same bad actors. However, the regulatory, legal frameworks, and national competent authorities differ depending on the violations.

 

Speaking at the meeting, Minister Sidi Tiémoko Touré, Minister of Animal and Fish Resources, Côte d’Ivoire, said, “As marine catches are either overexploited or fully exploited, it is necessary to focus on regional strategies to secure our resources and promote sustainable development through blue growth. The FCWC has been, through its mandate to strengthen cooperation between member States, safeguarding, preserving, and managing the fisheries resources of the sub-region for the benefit of its people. By working together, we will make the Gulf of Guinea region waters safe for maritime activities and allow the development of blue economies.

Using innovative technology to increase oversight for safe, fair and legal fisheries in the FCWC region

Sandy Davies, Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF), commented, “As a regional organisation the FCWC effectively uses its position to train, test, innovate, modernise approaches, and to share and establish best practices. Through the establishment of the West Africa Task Force (WATF) in 2015 and the FCWC Regional Monitoring Control and Surveillance Centre (RMCSC) in 2020 we have seen very real progress in regional coordination and collaboration to stop illegal fishing.”

 

The FCWC has deployed innovative technology to gather and pool information relating to vessel identity, vessel activity and fish stocks. A regional vessel monitoring system (VMS) is enhancing regional oversight of licensed and flagged vessels. VMS is being combined with additional tracking and observational data to provide a clear picture of fishing and related activity in the exclusive economic zones of FCWC Member States.

 

Technology is also being deployed to support decision making, information sharing and capacity building. Communication technology has transformed the way that national fisheries agencies work. The last decade has seen us move from communicating via letters and faxes which routinely took days or weeks to garner a response, to near instant communication via the WATF Online Communications Portal and via online messaging platforms. Elsa Patria, Chair of SIF said, “Stop Illegal Fishing is proud to have partnered with FCWC during this critical time in their development. By embracing new technologies, we are better able to identify and act against the illegal operators.”

Using innovative technology to increase oversight for safe, fair and legal fisheries in the FCWC region

 

 

Download the ‘Using innovative technology to increase oversight for safe, fair and legal fisheries’ to leaflet in English or French.

The Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) is an intergovernmental body established in 2007, with a Secretariat hosted in Tema, Ghana. The FCWC facilitates cooperation in fisheries management between its member countries: Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. The countries have several shared fish stocks and identified the need for cooperation and shared management of these resources.

 

The West Africa Task Force (WATF) was established in 2015 under the Fisheries Intelligence and MCS Support in West Africa project funded by Norad. The WATF has operationalised key regional and international instruments to combat IUU fishing. It strengthens regional information-sharing and cooperation between countries; interagency cooperation at the national level; and enforcement actions triggered by intelligence analysis and intelligence-sharing. The WATF has laid the foundation for longer term and sustained regional cooperation and increased fisheries compliance in the region. The WATF is facilitated by the FCWC Secretariat and supported by a Technical Team that includes Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT) and Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF).

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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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