Côte d’Ivoire successfully hosted Task Force Meeting 15 (TF15) of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC)’s West Africa Task Force (WATF) on 11-12 December 2023 at the Seen Hotel in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to continue building cooperation in the regions’ fisheries. The series of regional meetings have been bringing together directors of fisheries, and heads of monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) to share national-level updates, and to discuss regional cooperation and collaboration in MCS enforcement actions.
The opening ceremony of TF15 was marked by statements from La Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Animal and Fisheries Resources (MIRAH), Min. Sidi Touré; FCWC Secretary-General Dr. Antoine Gaston Djihinto; TMT Executive Director Mr. Duncan Copeland; and ECOWAS Director of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Alain Sy Traore; and was moderated by former ECOWAS-PESCAO Project Team Lead, Dr. Amadou Tall.
The meeting’s participants included the directors of fisheries of the FCWC Member States or their representatives, the heads of MCS, and representatives of ECOWAS, INFOPECHE, Subregional Fisheries Commission (SRFC), MIRAH and the WATF Technical Team comprising (TMT and Stop Illegal Fishing) and FCWC Secretariat staff.
The fifteenth meeting comprised discussions on the headline activities for the third phase of the Norad-funded ‘Fisheries Intelligence and MCS Support in Africa’ project which supports the WATF; updates on the Regional Monitoring Centre activities; cooperation with various partners on new areas of work including the regulation of bunkering activities, decent work and labor conditions; and the review of the FCWC strategy to combat illegal transshipment at sea.
Continuing to hold two Task Force meetings annually and assisting the implementation of PSMA at the national level in the Member States through the Ports Program are some of these activities through which WATF aims to ensure that the FCWC Member States continue to cooperate and effectively acting to reduce illegal fishing and associated crimes at the national, regional, and international level.
Key outcomes of the meeting include the welcoming of the log frame and budget developed for Phase 3; the welcoming of the sustainability plan and funding of the regional centre, a recommendation to further sensitize Member States on the protocol on labour standards for crew and the elimination of forced labour on fishing vessels; and a recommendation to revise and update the regional transhipment strategy ahead of the next Conference of Ministers.
The WATF brings together the six member countries of the FCWC – Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Togo – to tackle illegal fishing and stop the trade in illegally caught fish. The WATF is facilitated by the FCWC Secretariat and supported by the WATF Technical Team with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).