Experts worry over regional management of fishery activities

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Source: Daily Times, Article: Charles Okonji

Prof. Ebenezer Owusu of the University of Ghana, on Wednesday decried the poor management practices and increasing challenges from illegal and unregulated fishing activities in West Africa. Owusu spoke at the 2nd Regional Steering/Technical Committee Meeting of the ECOWAS Coastal and Marine Resources Management Project held in Abuja.The meeting had as its theme: “Enhancing the Use of Earth Observation to Support Fishery Management and Safety at Sea in Western Africa’’.

Owusu said that the main challenge to resource management in Africa as a whole were inadequate or lack of continuous data for monitoring the environment and its resources. He said that the benefits from the fishery sector were being threatened by poor management, adding that over three million people were directly or indirectly employed in the industry. According to Owusu, up to 30 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in many countries is based on earnings from fishery sector and fish forms a significant portion of the animal protein.

“ECOWAS has given the mandate to the ECOWAS Coastal and Marine Resources Management Centre to coordinate activities with 14 countries in the region. “The overall objective of this project is to increase the information management, decision making and planning by enhancing access to and exploitation of relevant earth observation data. “In line with this, the centre has established national network in all participating countries with the help of mandated government agencies,’’ the fishery expert said. He further said that the centre had also started providing training to enhance capacity of fishery officers, scientists and key stakeholders in utilising earth observation data for management.

He said that in Ghana, fish represented more than 60 per cent of total animal protein in the country with an estimated two million people living along the coast directly employed in the industry. “We need to develop capacity in the region to be able to utilise the data provided to protect our collapsing fisheries industry. “Earth observation applications for fisheries management is a vital tool for effective policy formulation for sustainable fisheries management.’’

Also speaking, Dr Lapodini Atouga, ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, urged the committee members to increase information management, decision making and planning capacity of the regional institutions. Atouga said that the ECOWAS attached importance to the successful implementation of earth observations, adding that environmental concerns and food security were major focus of the commission’s regional integration drive. “The commission’s department of Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources is working on several initiatives that will enhance favourable environment for sustainable food security,’’ he added.

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