Liberia has taken the first ever step through a consolidated effort to stop illegal fishing within its territorial waters, involving the West Africa Task Force (WATF) to establish its National Working Group (NWG) during a one-day workshop held in Monrovia on 21st July 2016.
The WAFT brings together the six member countries of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) namely Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria and is hosted by the FCWC. The regional Task Force comes along with the project “Fisheries Intelligence and MCS support in West Africa” to tackle illegal fishing and fisheries crime and is supported by a Technical Team including Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT), Stop Illegal Fishing and NFDS with funding from Norad. Through this project the member States are enabled to actively cooperate, through information sharing and by establishing interagency working groups, and Liberia is not an exception.
The decision to establish the Liberia National Working Group (NWG) is backed by the 2007 convention of the FCWC which witnessed its six member States’ individual commitment to strengthen sub-regional cooperation in the context of fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) as well as enhancing enforcement in the fisheries sector.
Speaking Thursday, at the one-day workshop, Mr. Duncan Copeland, Chief Analyst of TMT, said his institution was working closely with the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) to ensure compliance by helping to stop illegal fishing in the West African region. So the rationale behind the Liberia NWG is particularly to improve fisheries compliance and curtail the misuse of the territorial water of Liberia and FCWC’s member countries as a whole.
In remarks, the Coordinator of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project for Liberia, Mr. Yevewuo Z. Subah expressed Liberia’s willingness and preparedness in combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) within its waters.
Mr. Subah explained that Liberia was greatly impacted by IUU during the country’s decade long civil war, and revealed that the country alongside its international partners has managed to put the situation under control to some extent.
“Now we’re standing but there is still lots to be done, it cannot be done by only one country; it cannot be done by only one region, but requires the collective effort of the whole world involvement,” he said.
“So collaboration, exchange of information, exchange of intelligence will help us go a long way in achieving objective of the West Africa Task Force” he added.
Despite a few challenges that were pointed at during the Liberia national workshop, in terms of Liberia MCS operations, it was highlighted that Liberia has taken the lead in Africa in both publishing fishing licenses and hosting vessels fishing within its territorial waters.
The one-day gathering was attended by stakeholders involved in fighting illegal fishing in Liberia including the Liberia National Police, Armed Forces of Liberia Coast Guard, National Bureau of Fisheries, APM Terminal, Liberia Maritime Authority and the International Sea Port Security (ISPS) among others.
It’s also important to underline that Liberia will soon ensure chairmanship of the FCWC as the country is preparing to host the 9th Conference of Minister in December 2016.