West Africa Task Force focuses on cooperation

West Africa Task Force The Task Force identified key areas for future cooperation in tackling illegal fishing with at-sea transhipment and regional harmonisation of licensing, penalties and access conditions considered to be priority areas for action

Regional cooperation and collaboration were at the forefront of discussion during the fifth West Africa Task Force (WATF) meeting.

The Task Force — drawn from member countries of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC): Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo — identified key areas for future cooperation in tackling illegal fishing with at-sea transhipment and regional harmonisation of licensing, penalties and access conditions considered to be priority areas for action.

Speaking at the meeting in Ghana, Duncan Copeland, chief analyst at Trygg Mat Tracking, said: “The WATF has been monitoring fisheries operations in the West Central Gulf of Guinea, and in the process we have identified numerous cases of potential at-sea transhipment – between industrial fishing vessels, between industrial fishing vessels and reefers, and between industrial fishing vessels and small-scale vessels.

“This is an issue for all of the WATF members, undermining traceability and management measures. By taking a shared regional approach we can tackle this issue head-on.”

Ill-gotten profit

Unauthorised at-sea transhipment enables illegal operators to maximise profits by: reducing time and fuel spent carrying fish to port; avoiding costs such as buying a licence; avoiding inspection of the catch, for example for prohibited species; avoiding inspection of the fishing vessel, for valid documentation or compliance to health and sanitary requirements; facilitation of broader fisheries crime; and by creating an environment conducive to crew labour abuse and human trafficking.

Building on the WATF success in sharing information and intelligence and taking cooperative action, options for harmonising licensing, penalties and access to fisheries resources in the region were considered by attendees.

The Honourable Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development in Ghana, noted the role that fisheries play in providing livelihoods and generating foreign interest and investment in West Africa.

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