The West Africa Task Force of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) has been monitoring and researching the dynamics of transhipment for several years. In 2017 the FCWC Conference of Ministers adopted an at-sea transhipment strategy to help tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. While this was a significant policy milestone, implementing the strategy has highlighted just how complex transhipment is, linking to different fish stocks, fishers, and vessels across the region and beyond.
‘Transhipment: Issues and Responses in the FCWC Region’ aims to provide an overview of how and where transhipment takes place, and how it impacts on the FCWC regions fish stocks and the trade in fish. The report explores the FCWC’s regional context and needs, relating these to research findings into transhipment operations. Through this analysis a number of key issues have been identified. These include:
The need to understand the role that transhipment plays in fisheries and blue economies and applying this understanding to improve how we manage transhipment has been internationally recognised. This resulted in the United Nations Committee on Fisheries requesting the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to lead the development of international guidelines on fisheries transhipment, with the aim to improve the clarity and application of transhipment management and oversight. This report further informs this process, which is currently ongoing.
Seraphin Dedi Nadje, Secretary General of the FCWC, commented, “Transhipment is not allowed in the FCWC region, except under specific conditions and in designated areas. We welcome the ongoing international focus on transhipment. This report provides insight and background to support the discussion around the development of inclusive and balanced global transhipment guidelines in order that they prove relevant, useful and beneficial. Whilst the priority of the FCWC is to ensure the sustainable development of the fisheries resources in our Convention Area, we must be aware of the pressure on fish stocks due to IUU fishing, overfishing, climate change, harmful subsides and population growth, and the regional reliance on imported fish. So many factors that unfortunately make our region a hub for illegal transhipment.”
Imports of fish in the FCWC region are 24 times more by volume than the amount exported – most of this fish is destined to feed some of the West Africa region’s 280 million people. It is the most populous countries – Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana – that import the bulk of this fish at a cost of around one United States Dollar (USD) per kilogram (kg); in contrast exported fish is sold for an average of eight USD per kg.
Sandy Davies, Stop Illegal Fishing, said, “With this insight in mind, we have analysed transhipment to determine options for how we can respond to the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities that transhipment brings to the FCWC region. At present there is a clear focus that draws MCS effort away from monitoring the low-value high-nutrition fisheries that provide food and nutrition for the people of West Africa, and places that focus on the traceability of fish destined primarily for export. We must ensure that African interests are equally protected.”
Duncan Copeland, Executive Director, TMT, stated, “The transhipment issues identified in this report enable us to highlight operational and policy solutions for the FCWC region. The need for better and more inclusive information sharing and accountability is clear. The West Africa Task Force has been instrumental in operationalising key FCWC commitments on sharing information and cooperating regionally to fight IUU fishing. This combined with a clear FCWC strategy on transhipment and the establishment of the Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Centre provide a solid foundation to better regulate and monitor transhipment in the FCWC region.”
Transhipment: Issues and Responses in the FCWC Region has been written by Stop Illegal Fishing, TMT and the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea, with funding support from Norad. It is intended for regional and international policy makers, funding organisations, national agencies and all those interested to understanding the role transhipment plays in the fisheries and fish trade of the FCWC region.