Let’s work together to end IUU fishing – ECOWAS to fishing countries

BY: Zadok Kwame Gyesi

The 13th Session of the conference of Ministers of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) has ended in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, with a call on FCWC countries to work together to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices in West Africa.

The FCWC was established in 2007 to promote and facilitate cooperation in fisheries management between the FCWC’s member countries—Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Liberia, Benin, and Cote d'Ivoire.

The FCWC exist among other things to enhance governance capacity through sub-regional and regional cooperation, particularly in respect to developing and implementing appropriate management frameworks that ensure fisheries resources are harvested sustainably.

Conference

Speaking on “strengthening regional mechanisms of coordination to combat IUU fishing in West Africa” at the 13th Session, which commenced on Wednesday, December 15, 2021 to Friday, December 17, 2021, the Team Leader for ECOWAS’ programme—Improved Regional Fisheries Governance in West Africa (PESCAO), Dr. Amadou Tall, said no single nation could win the war against IUU alone.

For him, the IUU menace could be defeated if all nations bordering the gulf worked together, particularly those in the FCWC enclave.

He explained that when FCWC countries worked together in fighting IUU fishing practices, it would reduce the operational cost in dealing with the situation as all countries involved would put resources together.

“You cannot do the patrolling along to fight IUU,” he said, adding that Ghana could lead the exercise and the benefits could be reaped by all.

Dr Tall added that Togo and Benin had already started the joint patrols to fight IUU fishing, noting that it was doable if only the FCWC countries would show commitment and political will.

He expressed the worry that FCWC countries continue to lose huge sums of money annually through the activities of IUU, estimating the losses to be over US$2.5 billion annually.

“One in every five fish caught around the world every year is thought to originate from IUU fishing,” he pointed, suggesting that FCWC countries ought to speed up their efforts to clamp down on the menace.

For Dr Tall, regional fisheries bodies “can play an important role both in promoting awareness and in promoting long-term sustainable fisheries management practices where international cooperation is required.”

13th FCWC session

The three-day conference was on the theme: "Using innovative technology to increase oversight of safe, fair and legal fishing."

The conference brought together Ministers, Directors of Fisheries and other technical fisheries experts in the FCWC countries as well as representatives from ECOWAS, AU, Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Labour Organisation, and Civil Society Organisations.

Regional efforts

The FCWC Secretary General, Mr Seraphin Dedi Nadje, called for an integration of regional approach to fight IUU fishing.

He said the FCWC had so far distributed some equipment to the member states to help fight IUU fishing in its operative countries, noting that the secretariat was also building database on the fisheries sector in the West African sub-region to help inform policies and decisions.

He also urged FCWC’s members to pay more attention to the artisanal fisheries and aquaculture sector, noting that those sectors were critical to the development of the region’s fisheries sector, food security, employment and the economy as a whole.

Mr Dedi has, therefore, encouraged all FCWC countries to work in harmony in ending IUU fishing in the region as well as supporting management policies to protect shared stocks in the region.

Sustainable management

The Minister of Animal Resources and Fisheries for Cote d'Ivoire, Mr. Sidi Tiemoko Toure said the 13th conference would help the participating countries to have fruitful discussions and contributions for a sustainable management of the fisheries resources in West Africa.

He said the conference would also help to bring to bear issues of mutual interests and harmonised ways of dealing with the challenges in the fisheries sector, as well as highlighting areas of importance to help the sector to grow.

Mr Toure therefore commended FCWC's Secretariat and member states in their efforts to promote the development of the region’s fisheries resources.

Speaking on the topic: "Improving fisheries governance in Ghana and the sub region (IFG), key outcomes, lessons learned and way forward", the Director of Hen Mpoano and IFG-Team Leader, Kofi Agbogah, called on FCWC to continue to monitor and report the changing dynamics of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices in the region.

He also urged the FCWC countries to work closely with all the relevant stakeholders to help end the menace of IUU fishing to help improve the fisheries sector governance in the ECOWAS region.