Speaking at a three-day meeting of the Ministerial Conference on Fishing Resources Cooperation among African States Bordering the Atlantic Ocean (COMHAFAT) in Abidjan last Friday, the Côte d’Avoire Fisheries Minister Alphonse Douati said that member countries intend to use satellite surveillance to curb the fish poaching which steals more than half their potential annual catch.
COMHAFAT, based in Rabat, Morocco, comprises 22 member states: Morocco, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Avoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, São Tomé & Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Namibia.
‘Experts estimate more than 50 percent of our potential fishing resources are taken each year by poaching,’ said Douati. ‘Nearly 4 million tons a year are lost to pirate ships … We’re drawing up a community surveillance project via satellite to enable states to control this system of poaching.’
COMHAFAT’s technical partner on the enterprise, expected to cost 15-20 million euros, will be Collecte Localisation Satellite (CLS), a subsidiary of the French space agency, and funding is expected to be provided by the European Union, the African Development Bank and the World Bank.
Ministers and experts attending the meeting also resolved to introduce new norms setting specific fishing periods, allocating no-fishing zones in the sea where fish will be able to breed and regulating the size of fishing nets to avoid catching younger, smaller fish and depleting stocks.