A new report from the West Africa Task Force has been launched today at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI) meeting this week in Rome. The report ‘Interagency Cooperation in the FCWC Region’ provides an overview of the actions taken by the six member States of the FCWC – Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo – to strengthen inter-agency cooperation in each country to combat illegal fishing and fisheries crime.
Illegal fishing and fisheries crime are intrinsically complex, and operations can occur over several jurisdictions, and commit a range of crimes that are outside of the mandate of fisheries departments. Experience in West Africa and globally has demonstrated that operators who break the law in one area are likely to be breaking it in others. Inter-agency cooperation is therefore an essential aspect of any action to end illegal fishing, and cooperation between fisheries, navies, maritime authorities, ports authorities, police and many other agencies is needed to both support compliance with fisheries law and to enforce the associated crimes that are taking place in the fishing industry.
Since the establishment of the West Africa Task Force (WATF) 2015, the strengthening of regional cooperation between countries has been complimented by efforts to build interagency cooperation at the national level. The new report examines the support that has been provide to the six Task Force members through the development of National Working Groups, and reviews the steps taken and experiences to date of the six FCWC countries. The report also reviews international agreements such as the PSMA, and national measures including flag and license applications, that can be used to stop illegal fishing.
Speaking at the report launch, Seraphin Dedi Nadje, Secretary General of the FCWC said, “The National Working Groups that have been established are not just talk shops. They are supporting existing cooperation and developing new connections. Interagency activity is taking place to inform port access authorisation, flagging and licensing decisions. Joint activity and operations have been undertaken and training is underway to build knowledge of illegal fishing and fisheries crime amongst partner agencies. These actions will all help the ability of our fisheries officers to end illegal fishing.”
“We are confident that by building this national awareness of the issue and the capacity and resolve to fight it that the FCWC region will continue to see improvements in the way our members act as responsible coastal, port, flag and market States. We hope that by sharing our experiences other countries will be able to benefit from our experiences,” commented Mr Dedi.
Sandy Davies, Stop Illegal Fishing stated, “By working together with other national agencies fisheries enforcement teams can improve the prevention, identification, investigation and sanction of criminals operating in the fisheries sector. Our work in supporting interagency cooperation in the WATF will lead to more effective implementation of port State measures in the region, making this a powerful tool to stop the import and processing of illegally caught fish in the FCWC region.”
Duncan Copeland, Executive Director of Trygg Mat Tracking commented, “This is a timely reflection on the process of building effective and successful working relationships between relevant agencies in the FCWC member States to tackle illegal fishing. As we enter the second phase of the project supporting the West Africa Task Force, and with the EU funded PESCAO project starting in 2018, we are looking to build on the firm foundations that have been established. We look forward to seeing interagency cooperation playing a crucial role in increasing compliance in the fisheries sector in the FCWC region.”