The eighth meeting of the West Africa Task Force (WATF) was hosted by the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) with the support of Cote d’Ivoire at the Afrikland Hotel in Grand-Bassam, from 8th-10th May 2019.
One of the key objectives of the meeting was the discussion of joint regional maritime patrols in the FCWC region. The meeting’s participants included directors and heads of Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) departments, directors from the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centers (MMCCs) Zone E & F, and representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Indian Ocean Commission, and the West Africa Regional Maritime Security Centre (CRESMAO).
The Director of Cabinet at the Cote d’Ivoire Ministry of Animal and Fisheries Resources, Dr. Meite Zoumana, opened the meeting, stating that “during [these] three days, [participants] will tackle fundamental themes of the fight against the IUU fishing especially for the realization of the joint patrols of the Member States.”
In opening remarks, Seraphin Dedi, Secretary-General of the FCWC echoed Dr. Meite’s emphasis on regional maritime security, urging participants to “discuss the feasibility of joint regional maritime patrols in the FCWC region as part of the operationalization of existing legal instruments and mechanisms in the fight against IUU fishing and associated crimes.”
Key outcomes of the meeting include the decisions to continue dialogue to improve national and regional cooperation between navies and fisheries authorities at national level, and through the relevant MMCCs under the aegis of CRESMAO; to continue dialogue on the conduct of joint patrol operations; and to support the MMCCs in the preparation of Standard Operating Procedures and Rules of Engagement.
The WATF initiative brings together the six member countries of the FCWC – Bénin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Togo – to tackle illegal fishing and stop the trade in illegally caught fish. The Task Force is facilitated by the FCWC Secretariat and supported by a Technical Team that includes Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT) and Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF) with funding from the Norwegian Cooperation Agency (NORAD).