Considering the vastness of the oceans, Sea Shepherd’s strategy to combat IUU fishing is to identify key areas of biodiversity and places where long-term partnerships with governments can aide ecosystem resilience. The waters off West Africa and East Africa have been identified as key areas that warrant protection, especially relating to the conservation of tuna and shark species, as both pelagic species migrate through, and spawn, in those waters. Sea Shepherd believes that by making in-roads with specific countries in the region, the projects will be replicated in neighboring countries, thereby growing Sea Shepherd’s conservation footprint and impact.
The West African Marine (often called the Galapagos of West Africa) spans 3,500km of coast in western Africa and includes 6 countries. It is one of the most diverse, and economically important, fishing zones in the world. Over 1,000 species of fish have been identified in this area, as have several species of cetaceans including dolphins and whales, 5 species of endangered marine turtles, and a colony of 100 monk seals, the largest breeding colony left on Earth. In Gabon’s coastal waters, there’s a humpback whale nursery, the world’s largest leatherback turtle breeding population, over 20 species of sharks, whales and dolphins.
The unique combination of climate and up-wellings supports species and habitats that represent critical resources locally, nationally, regionally, and across the globe. West Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world, with many of the countries lacking adequate resources to combat IUU fishing. The complex system of transnational boundaries in the Gulf of Guinea complicates jurisdiction and enforcement. Confident that they have no reason to fear any checks by fisheries control or prosecution, some IUU vessels fish directly off the coast – in some cases at a distance of just one kilometer from the shore.
Sea Shepherd is preparing to embark on its most ambitious venture to shutdown IUU fishing in critical coastlines of Africa, by starting 2018 in partnership with Liberia, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Tanzania. Sea Shepherd endeavors to add one new government partnership every year. Utilizing the Sea Shepherd vessels M/Y Bob Barker, M/Y Sam Simon and M/V Ocean Warrior, Sea Shepherd will provide partner countries with civilian vessels, operating crews and fuel. To build sustainability, Sea Shepherd will increase its investment in capacity-building by contributing additional support in terms of training and investigations.
To learn more on Sea Shepherd’s IUU operations in Africa , please go here. (Hyperlink: https://www.seashepherdglobal.org/our-campaigns/iuu-fishing/learn-more/)