In May 2023, the workshop ‘Charting a Blue Future for West African-China Cooperation on Sustainable Fisheries’ aimed at facilitating dialogue between civil societies (Track II) from West Africa and China and develop an understanding on each other’s perspectives on IUU fishing, fishmeal factory operations and global ocean issues has been held in the Gambia.
The initiative is the result of a collaboration between the Stimson Centre, the China Dialogue Trust, and TMT, working with local civil society stakeholders. Members of relevant West Africa-based civil society, as well as a representative from the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources of Gambia were present at the event. Participants from Chinese civil society joined the discussion online.
In-depth discussions surrounded a series of topics, including Fisheries Management and IUU Fishing Challenges in West Africa and China, and the local impacts of global ocean environmental challenges in West Africa in the context of blue economy.
A particular focus was on fishmeal operations in West Africa, where participants raised questions of how China and West African countries can improve existing partnerships and develop new connections together to support sustainable fisheries, discussing examples of shared challenges that both China and West African countries face.
TMT provided an overview of fisheries operations that supplied fishmeal factories and some of common forms of illegal fishing in the region, and demonstrated a case study to illustrate the characteristics of distant-water fishing operations that can make them challenging to monitor and control.
A risk-based and data-driven approach to the monitoring and control of fisheries was identified as crucial to the Gambia and the region, if limited resources are to be used effectively to reduce the risk of illegal fishing.
Participants identified a range of opportunities and challenges for future West Africa and China collaboration. They formed draft recommendations for governments, fishery operations and factory owners, with a focus on regional cooperation in fisheries management and monitoring among West African countries, as well as a greater transparency from Chinese fishery authorities.
Following this session, another dialogue was held virtually on 16 May to further discuss the recommendations and some focal points generated from the first session.
Upon the final session, which is scheduled for 7 June 2023, a report of joint recommendations will be finalised and presented to the governments of China, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.