West Africa Task Force
The West Africa Task Force brings together the six member countries of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) – Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo – to tackle illegal fishing and fisheries crime. The Task Force is facilitated by the FCWC Secretariat and supported by a Technical Team that includes TMT and Stop Illegal Fishing. By actively cooperating, by sharing information and by facilitating national interagency working groups the West Africa Task Force is working together to end illegal fishing in the region.
Tackling illegal fishing in West Africa
The FCWC West Africa Task Force (WATF) was formed in 2015 to tackle illegal fishing in West Africa, based on the model developed and pioneered by the FISH-i Africa Task Force, and adapted to the needs of the region and characteristics of fisheries enforcement needs in the region. The Task Force was formed in response to very high levels of illegal fishing by industrial vessels in the Gulf of Guinea region, where fisheries represent an important source of employment and food for local communities, and revenue to national treasuries.
The aim of the Task Force is to improve compliance and governance in the region’s large-scale fisheries sector, leading to sustainable exploitation of fish stocks and more income and fish available to coastal states. It serves as the MCS Working Group of the FCWC, through which all regional MCS initiatives and activities are coordinated and implemented,
Crucially the WATF operationalises key FCWC conventions and processes that have been signed between member countries on information sharing, cooperation on fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), and the establishment of long-term, sustainable mechanisms to ensure fisheries compliance in the region.
Systematic sharing of information between countries is a crucial aspect of the West Africa Task Force approach, enabling countries to benefit from intelligence provided by their neighbours and the technical team, and preventing known illegal operators from operating across the region.
While strengthened regional cooperation and information sharing between States is at the core of WATF objectives, focus is also on a supporting both national multi-agency and international approaches to tackle illegal fishing. It recognises that fisheries officers must work in close cooperation with a range of agencies at the national level, and with their counterparts in neighbouring countries, regions and with international partners.
To achieve this, Task Force activities include the development of multi-agency National Working Groups in each country, which form the basis for cooperation, capacity building and collaborative work between all agencies involved in fisheries controls and broader crimes taking place in fishing operations. The National Working Groups form the nucleus of national and regional level fisheries intelligence gathering and analysis, cooperate on MCS planning and operations, and are the focus of capacity building efforts provided by the Technical Team.
The FCWC West Africa Task Force is funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), through the TMT administered project ‘Fisheries Intelligence and MCS Support in West Africa’. Phase 1 of this support ran from 2015-2018, and Phase 2 is now being implemented through to 2022. In addition, the MCS Component of the EU PESCAO project is supporting the FCWC to further strengthen the West Africa Task Force.
TMT supports the FCWC West Africa Task Force through:
The provision of fisheries intelligence and analysis, both as identified and in response to Member States requests for assistance
Establishment of the regional communications platform
Targeted capacity building and support of each country’s National Working Group, and the development of a regional ‘toolbox’ of manuals and briefs
Support of exchanges of personnel between countries to build relationships, share best practices and harmonise capacity and approaches in the region
Supporting two regional Task Force meetings per year
Providing broader technical and institutional support to the FCWC Secretariat and Member States
Administering the Norad supporting project
FCWC Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Centre
Established in 2020, the FCWC Regional Fisheries Monitoring Centre (RMCSC) addresses major national and regional in combatting IUU fishing and associated fisheries crimes in West Africa. This is achieved through the establishment of a regional vessel monitoring system, the pooling and analysing information, working in a collaborative manner, promoting cooperation with relevant regional and national authorities and institutions, and building capacity.
The RMCSC supports the following activities:
Vessel monitoring and analysis to support coordinated efforts of fisheries inspection at port and at sea.
Developing a Regional Record of Authorised Fishing Vessels, to maintain an up to date, easy to access list of authorised and IUU listed fishing vessels.
Coordinating regional and joint at-sea patrols, to identify vessels operating illegally, without authorisation, or in contravention of national or regional conservation and management measures.
Establishing a Regional Observer Programme, to provide first-hand scientific and compliance information.
Training and capacity building, to strengthen capacity for MCS.
The RMCSC is built on the regional cooperation established by the FCWC West Africa Task Force and is integrated into this key FCWC regional MCS mechanism.
The technical team of TMT, Stop Illegal Fishing and the FCWC Secretariat have produced reports, briefings, and training manuals in support of the FCWC and West Africa Task Force, which can be found here.