|Group photo of the National Working Group of WATF – Nigeria’s Fight Against Illegal Fishing Improves Through Inter-Agency Cooperation
The third meeting of the Nigeria National Working Group jointly organized by the West Africa Task Force, and the Federal Department of Fisheries, brought stakeholders together over a three-day period to discuss strengthening inter-agency cooperation.
The meeting, which took place 9th-11th May 2018 in Lagos, Nigeria, was attended by representatives from varying Nigerian fisheries and related agencies including the Navy, the Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Port Authority, the Ministry of Justice, the Marine Police, the National Aquatic Resources Quarantine Service and INTERPOL.
In a welcome address, Ms. Aduke Bola Kupolati, the Deputy Director of Fisheries Resources at the Federal Department of Fisheries shared some of the successes and improvements that the NWG has produced in the fight against illegal fishing. “In the last one-year, we have reported and investigated on the NWG platform more than 8 vessels associated with illegal activities in our waters. We have also witnessed kidnappings and sea robbery attacks on more than three fishing vessels in our waters in the last one-year. No doubt, knowledge, and information-sharing both at the national and regional level on suspicious fishing vessels in the sub-region have greatly enhanced our effort in monitoring the activities of vessels at sea as well as combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing” she said.
Yann Yvergniaux, Analyst for Trygg Matt Tracking in his opening remarks reminded participants of the need to collaborate given the complexity of tackling illegal fishing. “The rationale behind the creation of the West Africa Task Force was that no country alone could tackle illegal fishing. This National Working Group was established in the same spirit: no agency alone can address illegal fishing and fisheries-related crimes, and therefore inter-agency cooperation is key,” he said.
The first two days of the meeting were comprised of presentations from both the national representatives of the agencies and the WATF Technical Team. Topics addressed included an update of NWG activities; a review of recommendations and requests from the NWG; a review of ongoing WATF cases; the implementation of regional and international instruments; the formalization of the NWG; and formalization of interagency cooperation through a draft MoU.
The Technical Team of the WATF gave a presentation on the last day of the meeting to 200 naval officers and trainees at the Naval Training Command (NAVTRAC) of the Nigerian Navy, The presentation covered common offenses identified in Nigeria in particular as well as the Gulf of Guinea region. Bridge inspection, cross-referencing of information from vessel documents, navigational equipment and tracking systems were also discussed. FDF Deputy Director, Mr. Popoola, called for increased cooperation between all agencies, and between the Navy and the FDF in particular, for effectively prosecuting offenders and keeping a record of detected infringements.
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 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), Stop Illegal Fishing and NFDS, with funding from Norad and NOAA.