Collaboration on open data and technology to bolster maritime surveillance in West Africa
A new partnership agreement between Benin and Global Fishing Watch aims to strengthen monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities within the waters of the West African State.
Under the memorandum of understanding, Global Fishing Watch will provide technical support, including fisheries analysis, capacity building and training on its vessel monitoring tools. To track its fishing fleet, Benin is establishing a vessel monitoring system, or VMS, and has formally agreed to share its data via the Global Fishing Watch map—the first African nation to commit to making its fishing fleet publicly visible.
Benin recently hosted in the large port city of Cotonou the first workshop under the new partnership, bringing together participants from Global Fishing Watch and various government agencies to develop actions to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and advance collaboration through open and shared data.
“We are committed to eradicating illegal fishing from our waters and taking all action necessary to secure sustainable fisheries,” said the Honorable Gaston Cossi Dossouhoui, Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Benin. “Through our partnership with Global Fishing Watch, we can strengthen our ability to monitor fishing activity, enforce the law and demonstrate our commitment to transparency in support of a blue economy. We encourage other African States to join us in this initiative to rid our waters of illicit activity.”
Captain (Navy) Fernand Maxime Ahoyo, Maritime Prefect of Benin added, “Global Fishing Watch’s tools will reinforce Benin’s actions to protect its maritime area.” Captain Ahoyo also acknowledged support from the non-profit organization, EcoBenin in facilitating engagement between the government of Benin and Global Fishing Watch.
“Greater transparency in fishing activity is an effective and cost-efficient means of driving more compliant behavior at sea. It allows law-abiding fishers to be rewarded, while those with missing information can be investigated and enforcement action more targeted,” said Dame Mboup, Global Fishing Watch’s program manager for West and Central Africa. “Violations by unauthorized vessels are prevalent off West Africa’s coast; Benin is demonstrating leadership in using cutting-edge technology and open data to combat illegal fishing.”
Persistent IUU fishing represents a considerable challenge for Benin and other coastal States in the Gulf of Guinea—a vast and diverse region spanning approximately 3,500 miles (5,633 kilometers) of coastline from Senegal to Angola. IUU fishing accounts for nearly 40 percent of all the fish caught in West Africa and threatens the ability of the region’s developing countries to maximize the use of their ocean resources.
In addition to the partnership with Benin, Global Fishing Watch has signed letters of intent with Cameroon, Gabon, Guinea, Mauritania and Senegal to strengthen collaboration on governance tools, capacity transfer and analysis. The Regional Fisheries Commission for the Gulf of Guinea and the Sub-regional Fisheries Commission have also expressed their interest in joining Global Fishing Watch’s vision for greater fisheries transparency, recognizing that regional cooperation and information sharing is needed to combat IUU fishing.
“West African countries rely on fish as a vital source of protein, income and employment for nearly 7 million people. But this region has seen its fish stocks decline drastically,” added Dame Mboup. “Regional collaboration is critical to eliminate IUU fishing and restore fish populations. Global Fishing Watch is excited to support a growing number of West African States working together to share fishing data and harness technology to safeguard their marine resources and promote economic security.”
Countries in the Gulf of Guinea recently stepped up the fight against IUU fishing and related crimes. Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo, through the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC)—an intergovernmental organization that promotes regional cooperation in fisheries management—launched the Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Center to monitor fishing and related activities in the Gulf of Guinea.
In support of regional efforts to combat IUU fishing, Global Fishing Watch and the international nonprofit, TM-Tracking launched a pilot project with Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and the FCWC to provide authorities with satellite tracking data, analysis and training needed to assess a fishing vessel’s recent operations and compliance risk. The collaboration will harness a new tool called vessel viewer, which was developed by the two organizations and provides vital information on a vessel’s identity, fishing activity, port visits and transshipments to help assess the need for inspection and port access.
With support from the Bloomberg Philanthropies, Moore Foundation, OAK Foundation and Oceans 5, Global Fishing Watch is committed to working with States to publicly share their vessel monitoring data and make its analytical tools and innovative technologies available to help enhance maritime surveillance.
“Achieving sustainable and equitable management of fisheries is critical,” said Melissa Wright, Vibrant Oceans Initiative Lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Fisheries support the health and well-being of coastal communities, and Bloomberg Philanthropies is excited for the opportunity to expand the number of organizations that make fishing information available and accessible to governments, civil society, and the public. This is an important step in the fight against illegal fishing – a problem that requires all hands on deck.”