Stakeholders in the fisheries sector across the West African sub-region have called for an integrated regional approach in tackling the menace of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which remains a key challenge to economies of the region.
At an inception workshop for the Improving Fisheries Governance in West Africa PESCAO project in Accra, they unanimously agreed that the threats of IUU fishing and its associated crimes can only be tackled through effective collaboration among countries within the sub-region.
For them, adopting a regional approach will be more cost-effective compared to having each member-country investing in its own marine surveillance and monitoring infrastructure.
Secretary General of the project implementer – Fisheries Committee of West and Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) – Seraphin Dedi said in his remarks: “Foreign vessels are not only poaching fish but also using the region’s waters as transit routes for trading in hard drugs.
“This project will, among others, support the harmonisation of fisheries legal frameworks to be consistent with international standards so as to ensure proper fight against IUU fishing and also help improve cooperation between countries, administrations and organisations.”
He said the project will help tackle the high incidence of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and its associated trade in illicit drugs, which remains a major challenge facing the West African sub-region.
The contribution of fisheries to the economic development of West Africa is sub-optimal, and the current governance of fisheries threatens food security, means of subsistence and marine biodiversity.
The new European Union funded regional fisheries programme—PESCAO—aims at enhancing regional fisheries management in a number of ways; including by, firstly, addressing regional fisheries policy.
It also intends to build the capacities of competent national and regional monitoring and surveillance authorities to deter IUU fishing, as well as demonstrate the added value of coordinated approaches for shared fisheries management.
Acting Head of the European Union Delegation to Ghana, Paolo Salvia, said the PESCAO programme will help to improve regional fisheries governance in Western Africa through better coordination of national fisheries policies.
Aside from preventing IUU fishing, Mr. Salvao said the project will ultimately improve marine resources management at the regional level and help to develop a broader fisheries and aquaculture policy for the West African region.
He added: “Fisheries represent an important sector for both economic and environmental reasons; but today fishery resources in West Africa are under increasing pressure and there is increasing evidence that IUU fishing is a component of organised cross-border crime, money laundering, tax avoidance and even financing for terrorist activity in Western Africa”.
The Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) as an Intergovernmental body, was established in 2007 with its Secretariat based in Tema, Ghana, as its host country to facilitate cooperation in fisheries management between the member-countries: Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.
The countries have several shared fish stocks and identified a need for cooperation and shared management of these resources.
Mr. Salvao urged partners in the project to work closely at realising the intended purpose, as it will better the lives of coastal fisherfolk and protect fisheries resources for future generations.