The tenth meeting of the West Africa Task Force (WATF) was held in Ghana on 13 – 17 September 2021 with the participation of the directors and heads of MCS from the FCWC Member States, Technical Team members, and representatives of partner organizations, both in-person and online.
The meeting focused on activities advancing regional cooperation and coordination to fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, including the successful launch of the FCWC Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Centre in May 2021, a review of the joint patrol document and supporting protocol, as well as the pilot regional observers document, all developed under the FCWC PESCAO project.
FCWC Secretary General Seraphin stated, “The RMCSC provides a solid base for future activity. We have established information sharing and communication channels, developed through the WATF. We now have additional oversight of fishing and vessel activity provided by the development of the FCWC regional VMS and. A strengthened regional approach through the development of standard operating procedures. This will ensure a systematic and professional approach is made to due diligence and risk assessments.”
This oversight will see further strengthening though the development of a regional observer programme, discussed at the meeting. The programme will launch before the end of 2021, with the objectives to monitor the implementation of appropriate fisheries laws and to collect verified catch data, other scientific data, and additional information related to fishing activity within the waters under the jurisdiction of FCWC Member States.
Joint patrols are also planned for October/November 2021 for Togo and Benin, after the two Member States share and discuss a draft operations order. The joint patrol is expected to provide proof of concept for joint-nation maritime patrol operations as well as to improve tactical proficiencies of participating units.
The WATF also discussed ongoing progress in implementation of port state measures throughout the region. This is a key challenge as FCWC members build cooperation with national agencies to ensure that the correct information is shared in a timely manner ahead of vessels arrival in port. Developing strong mechanisms to check on the vessels activity, identity and catch is vital to making informed decisions on port entry and to prioritise inspection capacity.
Participants paid a visit to the RMCSC on the fourth day, where Regional MCSC Centre Coordinator, Godfrey Baidoo-Tsibu demonstrated the capabilities of the Seasight VMS system. The tenth WATF meeting was attended by representatives from the fisheries ministries of Member States, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF), and Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT).
FCWC Communication Officer.