The Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) has established a Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Center (RMCSC) to help counter illegal fishing.
Headquartered in Tema, Ghana, the center will help member countries Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo manage their fishing sectors. The new center was integrated into the FCWC West Africa Task Force, which is financed by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.
The center opened in May 2021. It is equipped with vessel-tracking systems and can collect data on authorized fishing vessels across the region where illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has been a scourge for decades.
“The RMCSC’s establishment brings us a step closer to having coordinated approaches to joint action, including patrols for better security in the maritime domain of our region,” said Seraphin Dedi, secretary-general of the FCWC.
Illegal marine trade costs West Africa almost $1.95 billion across the fish value chain and $593 million per year in household income. IUU fishing also decimates fish populations, destroys ecosystems, and has been linked to other crimes such as piracy, kidnapping and drug trafficking.
China is the world’s worst fishing offender, according to the IUU Fishing Index, and has targeted West Africa for years.
The center is expected to help countries counter the methods fishing trawlers use to evade law enforcement in areas where maritime security is weak, such as falsifying vessel license and registration information, underreporting catch size, using illegal gear and incorrect vessel names, and turning off transponders to avoid detection.
Vessels fishing illegally also are known to fly the flag of a country under which a ship is registered, instead of the country of the ship’s owner, to avoid financial charges or regulations. Vessels pay registration fees to the countries.