Poor governance and lack of transparency and accountability in the fisheries sector among coastal communities in the Gulf of Guinea are contributing to a string of events which pose existential threats to the livelihoods of those who ply their trade in the fishing industry, a report by the Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa (CEMLAWS Africa) has indicated.
The report noted that information-sharing in these communities is most often non-existent and lacks implementation of mitigating mechanisms and programmes to ensure that Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in communities along the Gulf of Guinea is curbed.
The Centre, however, urged governments in countries along the Gulf of Guinea to treat issues of illegal fishing and other unlawful activities with the greatest urgency.
The Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa is a non-governmental organisation that seeks to improve ocean governance and maritime security in Africa. The Centre’s mission is to promote effective national and regional responses to ocean governance and maritime security through policy analysis, expert-driven deliberations, capacity building and research.
Illegal fishing has a devastating cost on the region – the UN estimates that nearly 40 percent of all fish caught in West Africa are done so illegally, resulting in a loss of US$2.3billion annually.
Ghana, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), loses some US$50million each year to illegal fishing – popularly known as ‘saiko’.
“There must be a revision of existing laws, national legal frameworks and the domestication of international norms, as well as the inclusion of accountability principles in fisheries governance.
“Additionally, more resources should be voted toward research and development to help bring about better and more effective monitoring, evaluation, control and surveillance systems. States along the Gulf of Guinea should enforce the use of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) to track and provide real-time activities of vessels,” the report recommended.
The Centre has however expressed worry that in addition to IUU fishing lies an array of serious crimes taking place at sea, including piracy and armed robbery, theft, drugs and arms smuggling, human trafficking, as well as the wider problems of perceived corruption, bribery and fraud in the Gulf of Guinea.
Meanwhile, the Ghana Maritime Authority has said though there has been an increase in the number of piracy and other illegal activities in the country’s territorial waters, Ghana has actually recorded the lowest amount piracy attacks in the region.
GMA says it has upgraded its VTMIS system (Vessel Traffic Management Information System) and is building more satellite offices to better monitor vessels that come in and out of the country.