The 11th Session of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) Conference of Ministers took place on 28th-30th November 2018 in Lomé, Togo with strong support from the Togolese government, the host country.
In attendance were all Ministers, directors and representatives in charge of Fisheries from the Member States, as well as representatives of technical partners including Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT), Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF), the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), the Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation Among African States Bordering the Atlantic Ocean (ATLAFCO), and the Economic Community for West Africa States (ECOWAS).
In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General Seraphin Dedi expressed his gratitude to the Government of Togo for hosting the conference and demonstrating its interest in the fisheries sector, fisheries cooperation, and regional integration. “If it is accepted by all that our coasts and maritime space are full of enormous potential, it is up to us to ensure the safety of our fishing areas which face many kinds of illegal traffic which puts at risk the development of the maritime sector, especially with regard to blue growth,” he said, concerning the theme for the upcoming year.
Hon. Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the outgoing chairman of the FCWC Conference of Ministers for 2018 in his speech talked about the need to look at lessons learned in security and to propose concrete measures at tackling insecurity in the sub-region’s territorial waters for sustainable development of its fisheries resources. “Without a doubt this can only be achieved by further strengthening of partnership and collaboration between member states,” said Senator Lokpobiri, calling for member states to proffer solutions to these challenges in the immediate, medium and long terms.
The emphasis on sustainable fisheries development was further highlighted by the high-level statement on the Lomé Charter on Maritime Safety and Security and Development given by Hubert M Bakai, Director of Cabinet at the High Council for the Sea of Togo. "For the Member States of the AU, the aim is to maintain all the provisions of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, which have as their objectives maritime safety and security issues and to preserve the seas and oceans through actions aiming at the sustainability of the maritime economy," he stated.
Speaking on behalf of Honourable Jean Claude Kassi Brou, the president of ECOWAS Commission and Honourable Sékou Sangaré, Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Dr. Amadou Tall, Lead Technical Assistant for the ECOWAS/PESCAO program in a high level declaration on ECOWAS’ approach to maritime security recalled that it was the threat to the important riches of the maritime economy, which spurred the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government to mandate the ECOWAS Commission to develop a holistic maritime policy framework to guide action and cooperation in the West Africa region. “While dealing wisely with the Peace and Maritime Security dimension, I would like to inform you that the "economic and development" aspect of the fisheries and aquaculture sector is at the heart of ECOWAS priorities,” Dr. Tall said.
Further to all the high level statements made on the reasons to ensure that maritime security is established in the region, the Ministers adopted all technical documents presented including the Regional Plan of Action to Combat IUU (RPOA-IUU), the Regional Fisheries Management Plan, the Plan of Action for the implementation of the Strategy to Combat Illegal Transhipment at Sea and the Implementation Plan for the FCWC Communications Strategy. The other significant outcomes are that the Ministers renewed Seraphin Dedi’s tenure as Secretary-General for 5 more years and Ghana committed to relocating the FCWC headquarters to Accra.
In the handing over and closing ceremony of the conference, the Secretary-General Seraphin Dedi thanked all the Ministers for their presence at the Conference and called for action to support next year’s theme.