Mr Toure Sidi Tiemoko, Chairperson, 14th Conference of Ministers of the Fisheries Committee, West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC), has called on sub-regional countries to protect biodiversity and aquatic wealth for a sustainable blue economy.
Blue economy is an economic system or sector that seeks to conserve marine and freshwater environments while using them in a sustainable way to develop economic growth and produce resources such as energy and food.
Mr Tiemoko, also the Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Cote d’Ivoire, noted that aquaculture and the fishery industry were paramount to the development of the economy and called for its prioritisation.
The Conference hosted by Ghana in Accra was on the theme: “Supporting Effective Fisheries Management for Sustainable Ocean Economy.”
Seven million actors in the industry, he said, contributed 18 per cent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and helped to generate between 25 and 30 percent of revenue from exports of industry products.
“It is, therefore, an appeal to all to have a diligent reflection on management and protection of the coastal economy and fishing value chain. Let us prioritise strong and courageous initiatives and implement policies that would protect the vulnerability of the coastal economy and promote national development,” he added.
To tackle the challenges of the industry, Mr Tiemoko asked member states to give regular contributions, evolve and equip themselves with more efficient human resources to grow the sector.
The assets generated by the multifaceted partnership of FCWC, he said, was an illustration that it was committed to fighting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
He commended Ghana for introducing and enforcing the ‘closed season’ period to restore and multiply marine life and invited other members States to emulate the move.
Mrs Mavis Hawa Koomson, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, in her welcome remarks, said the fisheries sector contributed significantly to the GDP, employment, foreign exchange, earnings, food and nutritional security.
The recent fisheries industry had however been confronted with challenges, especially the menace of IUU fishing practices, pollution of seas and oceans and destruction of marine habitants.
To address the challenges, the Minister proposed that regional approach to combat IUU was developed, that there was implementation of regional closed fishing season, development of regional fisheries management plans, undertaking of joint research programme and attainment of a common position at international meetings.
As member States of FCWC had organised meetings to commemorate the UN International Year for the Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2022, she advised them to go beyond the meetings to implement action plans to give visibility to artisanal fisheries and aquaculture.
“For as the saying goes, Artisanal fisheries is small in scale but big in value and truly they are the backbone of our respective fishing industries,” she added.
Mrs Koomson said the fisheries resources of the marine and inland water bodies were over-exploited, however the demand for the fish kept increasing annually due to increase in population and the preference of fish to meat by the populace.
Aquaculture offered countries alternatives to bridge the gap between demand and supply of fish, she said.
“Let’s ensure that our seas and oceans are protected, let us reorganise the impact of marine pollution from plastic waste on our fisheries resources and start thinking about regional approach to handle the matter, for the plastic waste could be carried by currents from one country to the other,” she advised.
Mr Seraphin Dedi Nadje, the Secretary-General of FCWC, said more than 10 per cent of people in most countries in the sub-region earned livelihoods in aquaculture apart from the industry contributing significantly to GDP and providing one of the key sources of animal protein.
However, he said there was a drastic depletion of the environment such as spilling of petroleum products, use of toxic products in fishing activities and climate change which was further worsened by weak laws and ineffective implementations.
No state in isolation could curb the challenge in the industry, he said and explained that maritime and the blue economy, therefore, demanded a broader cooperation among member countries to sustain the growth of the sector.
He admonished member States to adopt a blue economy by aligning with the national fishery framework policy and global strategy framework Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 14 to ‘sustain the use of ocean and marine resource for development’.