9th WATF Meeting in Liberia to Harmonize Regional Systems Against IUU Fishing

Representative from member countries of FCWC pose for a group photo after the opening ceremony of WATF 9 meeting that is ongoing in Paynesville City of Liberia (Credit: George Harris)

Promise to market WATF model to continental institutions and development partners

Representatives from countries in the West Central Gulf of Guinea, under the banner “Fishery Committee for West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC)” on Tuesday, September 24, 2019 converged at a local resort in Paynesville, Liberia to plan a new operational path for the West Africa Task Force (WATF) of FCWC, a body established to provide general enforcement in the region.

Liberia is hosting the three-day meeting for the first time since WATF was founded in 2015. The meeting has brought in representatives from Nigeria, Togo, Ghana Benin, Ivory Coast, and Liberia to discuss fisheries management issues in the West Central Gulf of Guinea.

Stakeholders are expected to discuss issues on the implementation of a regional plan of action to combat Illegal, Unauthorized and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, review the possibility for the establishment of a regional record of fishing vessels and discuss partialities for the establishment of the regional VMS; countries’ potential challenges and ways forward.

They are also expected to review means for the establishment of a regional observer program, discuss means to increase countries capacities to be able to collaborate more with flag, port and market and coastal states.

Emma Glassco, Director-General of NaFAA; immediate right, Seraphin Dedi, Secretary General of FCWC

Emma Glassco, Director General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), used the occasion to call on FCWC member states to expand efforts beyond national levels in the fight against IUU.

“Vessel registration, vessel monitoring, observer program and patrol missions at a national level are not enough to fight against IUU. There is a need to expatiate our efforts beyond national level by forming synergies,” she said.

She also urged countries to join forces to formulate regional observers’ programs, conduct a regional joint patrol, harmonize vessel monitoring system and work to establish a regional vessel registry.

“In order to be successful in the fight against IUU fishing, member states must — and I repeat, must — collaborate in the areas of formulating a regional observers program, conduct of regional joint patrol, and harmonization of vessels monitoring system, as well as establishing a regional vessel registry,” she said.

The Director, therefore, called on her counterparts to ensure that West Africa Task Force becomes a success by eradicating related IUU-crimes.

“It is incumbent upon all member-states as flag states, port states, market states, and coastal states to ensure that this program becomes achievable, considering the fact that FCWC has evolved beyond infancy to youth that must embark on initiatives, take up challenges and responsibilities amidst international support in ensuring that our region is free of fisheries-related crimes spanning from IUU fishing, forged licenses, unauthorized entry, inappropriate working conditions, to piracy, tax evasion, drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms trafficking, and marine pollution,” says Director Glassco.

Seraphin Dedi, Secretary General of FCWC says that the foreign vessels are also using the sub-region waters as transit routes for their trade of hard drugs. He, however, maintained his position against IUU.

“You will all agree with me that the movement of fish does not recognize political borders and therefore they need no passport and visa to travel. This means that the problems and challenges that migrating fish create in the region are multi-sectorial and trans-boundary in character and therefore need the concerted efforts of all stakeholders in the sub-region to tackle them,” says Dedi.

Dedi furthered that the FCWC’s position is to market WATF model regional institutions and development partners as part of efforts to implement the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy and the United Nations SDG14.

“After four years of running this project [WATF], we have demonstrated that through collaboration, cooperation, and communication, combating illegal fishing and associated crimes can be effective.

“Our ambition now is to market the WATF model to our Institutions [ECOWAS and AU], Development partners [EU, JICA] and also neighboring countries [Sierra Leone and Cameroon] and Organizations [COREP and CRSP] as part of efforts to implement the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy and United Nations SDG14,” says Dedi.

Partial view of participants during the opening program of the 9th WATF Meeting

Also, Duncan Copeland, Executive Director of Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT), thanked members state of FCWC for achievement gained on set objectives, particularly, the smooth flow of information from one member- country to another.

“The messages and information sharing have been flowing between your countries at a very active level, and I am sure you will agree that this made your decision-making in areas such as licensing, your operational planning and your case investigation better informed and more robust. Let us continue the excellent progress!” he said.

TMT is one of the technical units on WATF providing expert fisheries intelligence analysis in support of enforcement actions and improvement in fisheries governance.

In 2015, the Fishery Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea established the West Africa Task Force (WATF) to provide a regional approach to fisheries enforcement. The West Africa Task Force is supporting regional cooperation to identify, track, gather evidence and mount enforcement and prosecution actions against illegal fishing operators.

WATF activity comes up under the implementation of the project, “Fisheries Intelligence and MCS support in West Africa”, founded by the Norwegian Government (NORAD) and with technical tram support led by TMT, which is also a Norwegian Organization and Top Illegal Fishing, a non-profit organization.


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