The billion-dollar fish industry on the West African Coastline is being threatened by increased illegalities in the sector. Vessel poaching, unreported fishing, unregulated fishing, illegal fishing and other related crimes in Ghana, Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Togo, Liberia and Benin, are raking at least 10 billion dollars from the industry coffers annually. Head of the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre (MMCC) Zone E, Diomande Baba Maxime indicates a dire situation threatening the region’s food security and jobs for well over 3 million people.
Who are the Fisheries Committee of the West Africa Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC)?
Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Cote D’Ivoire and Liberia formed the Fisheries Committee of the West Africa Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) combining their resources to protect their fish assets. Despite a grand maritime space of a combined 2,633 km of coastline and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 923,916 km2, the majority of these countries are unable to produce enough to feed their population.
They are largely (70%) dependent on imports except for Ghana who produces more than 90 per cent of its fish locally. But the exploitation by foreign industrial fishing and IUU fishing is tantamount to a receding maritime line and depletion of resources. These countries stand to gain an estimated 32 billion dollars if transformational changes are made in the industry.
Measures by the West African Task Force (WATF)
The problems in the FCWC fishing industry led to the formation of the West African Task Force (WATF) in 2015 to help them fight crimes in the sector by combining forces. So far with Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) agreements, some sanity is gradually being instilled into the fishing industry space. Members signed on to the 2014 convention on pooling and sharing of information and data on fisheries and the 2009 FCWC Regional Plan of Action on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing which was revised in 2018.
These instruments have facilitated the sharing of information between members and the strengthening of the interagency corporation. Nevertheless, the task to protect the fishing industry in the sub region is herculean and needs the help of all sectors including the media.
Strategically, investigating crimes in this sector will be a major boost to unravelling corruption in the sector.
In that light, ten journalists from West African countries Ghana, Togo, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Senegal under the sponsorship of the Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism in West Africa (CENOZO), received training in a 2-day workshop to boost their knowledge in the sector.
This will help them work together with inter-regional agencies to uncover crimes in the fishing industry. Board member of CENOZO, Diallo Abdoulaye was optimistic journalists will help in the fight. The FCWC zone may have a receding maritime line coupled with the battling of IUU fishing and related crimes but with a strengthened regional effort and incorruptible media, IUU fishing will become history and so will the West Africa fishing industry flourish.
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