The announcement of Phase 2 of Norad support to the FCWC West Africa Task Force was at the forefront of the WATF7 agenda last week, as Fisheries Directors and MCS officers from the six-member States – Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo – came together in Abuja, Nigeria on 12-14 November 2018.
Participants welcomed the announcement, and recapped and applauded the results of the first phase (2015-2018), which saw the realization of the fisheries Ministers’ recommendation to establish a regional MCS working group, the operationalization of key FCWC conventions on information sharing, the establishment of a regional communications platform the regular sharing of relevant fisheries intelligence and regional MCS cooperation, and the establishment of inter-agency cooperation on fisheries enforcement at the national level in all participating countries. Most importantly it was identified that this progress had directly contributed to increased capacity in the region to combat illegal fishing, and a clear deterrent effect on illegal operators.
However, it was also identified that much remains to be done. The meeting was therefore the occasion for participants to identify priority work areas for the four years of Phase 2, in line with the previously identified needs forming the basis of the project’s second phase and with new regional Strategic documents – in particular the Strategy to Combat Illegal Transhipment at Sea – that FCWC member States are now aiming to implement.
With transparency in the fisheries sector also a cross-cutting theme on the agenda, WATF7 saw the participation of the Fisheries Transparency Initiative as an observer, and break-out sessions identifying the risk and challenges that corruption in the fisheries sector present to the region, and the future role that the WATF should play in addressing this issue.
WATF7 was held back-to-back to the Steering Committee of the EU-funded PESCAO programme, which is supporting both FCWC and the SRFC (Sub-regional Fisheries Commission). The MCS component is being coordinated with the new Norad support, and integrated into WATF activities. The meeting was therefore also an occasion for participants to identify ways for the Task Force to optimize support from both projects and build synergies.