Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing remains one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems due to its potent ability to undermine national and regional efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks.
It also jeopardises the management of fish stocks by disrupting regulatory processes as well as impacts negatively the livelihoods of coastal communities, including women and the youth.
This assertion was made by the commandant of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), Major-General Richard Addo Gyane, at the opening of a two-day Maritime Security Conference in Accra yesterday.
Themed ‘Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea: Rethinking the Past and Contemplating the Future,’ the meeting was organised by the KAIPTC in collaboration with the Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and the Royal Danish Defence College (RDDC).
According to Major-General Gyane, West Africa alone loses over $ 2 billion to illegal fishing annually.
This illegal activity, he said, contributed to unemployment and desperation in the region, adding that already there were fears that fishermen and other people in the value chain of fish processing, such as women and youth, may be pushed to a life of crime, particularly in the context of the current global economic challenges.
He mentioned that the pervasiveness of maritime security threats across the region illustrated the need for a holistic approach to maritime security response in the region.
“Sustainable development of the blue economy, improvement of the well-being of coastal communities and commitment and collaboration across agencies and governments are key in reducing maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea,” he stressed.
He noted that the conference will afford participants the opportunity to take stock of past efforts, experiences and lessons learnt within the maritime space in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) with the hope of applying them in future endeavour.
Making reference to the International Maritime Bureau’s half year report for 2022, he said 58 piracy incidents were recorded worldwide, adding that out of the figure only 12 were attributed to the GoG.
This, he said, had positive spin-offs for seafarers, the shipping industry and trade, leading to economic growth and development.
The commandant, therefore, underscored the need for continued efforts at ensuring the complete elimination of piracy in the GoG.
In his submission, Professor Thomas Mandrup, an Associate Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, said given the rising significance of oceans, it was imperative that coastal and island state governments in the GoG continued to design and align policies, strategies and ocean programmes to improve the security of their marine interests.
The ocean, he said, offered significant source of income which could soften the negative economic outlook facing several West African states.
According to Professor Mandrup, without strong political will and improvement of governance in the GoG states, it would be very difficult to realise the ocean’s potential.
BY RAISSA SAMBOU