“Satellites cannot observe fish directly but can contribute to sustainable fishing by providing continued and global monitoring of the marine environment” said Mr. Prendut Koonjoo, Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands of the Republic of Mauritius. Space-based and in situ Earth Observation data, coupled with other related data, provide information on ocean conditions and fish distribution dynamics in marine and coastal areas. Through the MESA Project, fishermen benefit from this type of technology to get information on the locations of potential fishing spots in five African Indian Ocean nations in the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and fourteen West African countries in the ECOWAS region.
Fish represents 60% of total animal protein consumed in Ghana. More than 200 million Africans eat fish regularly. Fresh, but more often smoked, dried, or even as powder, fish is a source of dietary protein and micronutrients for many communities in Africa. Fish is also an accessible and affordable source of animal protein for many households in Africa. Nutritionally, fish is an important direct source of protein and micronutrients for millions of people in Africa. The Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) Project, through its regional implementing centres for marine thematic actions, Mauritius Oceanography Institute and University of Ghana, is providing improved Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) charts, to Ministries of Fisheries in the IOC and the ECOWAS regions.
Eunice Nuerkie Ofoli-Anum is a National Focal Point for the MESA Project in Ghana. She witnessed that the product and services of the MESA Project “tell us where exactly fish productivity is very high, where we can get more fish and specifically particular kind of fish. It really helped us, Ghanaians. The majority of Ghanaians depend on fish.”
The MESA Project provides fishing vessel traffic information on fishing effort and activities of fishing vessels within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of countries. This service supports and helps curb widespread illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities in the IOC and ECOWAS regions. “Global losses due to Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or ‘pirate fishing’ are estimated to be between US$ 10 billion and US $ 23.5 billion per year. West African waters are estimated to have the highest levels of IUU fishing in the world, representing up to 37 percent of the region’s catch” pointed out Madam Sherry Ayittey, the Minister for Fisheries in Ghana. On the 20th of May 2015, BBC also reported that “more than 70 Chinese vessels have been found fishing illegally off the coast of West Africa.”
The MESA Project is a European Union funded Programme (37 Million €, 2012-2017), implemented with the overall coordination of the African Union Commission and steering by the Regional Economic Communities (CEMAC, ECOWAS, IGAD, IOC and SADC) and the ACP Secretariat, in close cooperation with the European Union Delegation to the African Union and partners such as EUMETSAT and the EC Joint Research Centre (JRC).
The Project is implemented by the African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) through their specialised technical institutions including the Botswana Department of Meteorological Services and SADC Climate Services Centre for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region, the International Commission for Congo-Oubangui-Sangha Basin (CICOS) for Central Africa, the AGRHYMET Regional Centre for the Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS), the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI) for the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), University of Ghana for the ECOWAS, and the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) provides climate services for disaster risk reduction for the African continent.