As part of the promotion of regional cooperation between the member States of the African Union, the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) in collaboration with WorldFish and NEPAD with the support of the European Union, has organised a consultative meeting of stakeholders on fish certification procedures, standards and regulations to promote intra-regional fish trade in West and Central Africa, from 7 to 9 March 2016 in Accra, Ghana.
The West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and sub-regional fisheries organisations such as the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC), Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation among African States Bordering the Atlantic (ATLAFCO) and the Regional Fisheries Committee for the Gulf of Guinea (COREP) were also part of the meeting.
According to an FAO report, fish was the best-selling commodity in the world in 2014 generating 136 billion dollar worldwide against 5 billion in Africa, which represents a very small share in view of the huge world-renowned fishing potential that abounds in West and Central Africa. Therefore, this program of AU-IBAR would have served as a means of identifying constraints and solutions to intra-regional fish trade in these regions.
One of the constraints was the understanding of fish certification process. Indeed, the level of understanding and improvement of fish certification in West Africa is higher than that of Central Africa where the terms related to certification are not clearly understood, hence the need for information and experiences sharing between countries of the two regions.
Present at the meeting, certification bodies such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), Eco Mark Africa (EMA) and Aquatic Animal Health Standards Commission (OIE) highlighted the importance of a harmonised legal framework within the countries of the regions concerned but also within the sub regional fisheries organisations they are part of.
In addition, it was stated that harmonisation of legislation will strengthen countries’ requirements relating to fish certification, contribute to the fight against IUU fishing and especially bring added value of fisheries products marketed in Africa in general.
At the end of this consultation meeting, recommendations were made including the creation of unique regional offices for the clearance of goods, the involvement of sub regional fisheries organisations in the process of the capacity building of member states staff regarding the certification of fisheries products and the strengthening of regional cooperation in fish trade.