– “Working together means we are expanding the number of like-minded actors towards a common good” –Dr. Azza Karam, Secretary General of Religions for Peace International.
As world leaders and civil society actors participate in COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
In this regard, collaboration among the 55 Member States of the African Union (AU) is crucial to successfully achieve a common goal of addressing the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in coastal waters. of the African continent – overcoming a raft of complex and politically sensitive issues.
IUU fishing is an unprecedented problem in a time of climate change that is decimating the livelihoods of local fishing communities. The AU must show strong leadership and present a united front for such collaboration to work, so that the creation of the proposed Combined Exclusive Maritime Zone for Africa (CEMZA) can achieve impactful results and not to be only a paper tiger.
African voices and indigenous expertise in the production of science knowledge and policy have been marginalized since colonial times, including with regard to sea fishing.
Africa continues to be at a disadvantage due to the historical processes by which individual countries were integrated into the global economic and financial system – often led by former colonizing powers – e.g. France, UK
As a result, the needs and concerns of local African fishing communities were historically invisible and inaudible in national and international fisheries deliberations. The “new” scramble for African resources has highlighted a new player, namely the People’s Republic of China, triggering a rapid expansion of Chinese investment, trade, development cooperation and loans aimed at harnessing Africa’s resources. Africa.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing mainly by Chinese and European trawlers endangers marine ecosystems, biodiversity, food security and therefore the survival of local African fishing communities. IUU fishing affects countries that cannot effectively monitor and control their maritime waters and exclusive economic zones (EEZs).
A growing number of organizations are exploring AI, data analytics and blockchain to tackle the threat of IUU fishing – as noted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (2020) in “How Data and technology can help fight corruption in IUU fishing “- https: //www.worldwildlife.org/pages/tnrc-blog-how-data-and-technology-can-help-address-corruption-in-iuu- fishing.
The provisions in place are often abused and therefore fail to combat obstacles to IUU fishing. It is to tackle these important issues at the operational level that Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy proposes to establish the Combined Exclusive Maritime Zone for Africa (CEMZA) – as noted by Vishal Surbun (February 2021 ) in “Africa’s Combined Exclusive maritime zone concept” in Institute for Security Studies, Africa Report 32 – https://issafrica.org/research/africa-report/africas-combined-exclusive-maritime-zone-concept.
CEMZA is a future project that remains only on paper for the moment, which must be implemented in its entirety to facilitate economic and security benefits for the target African countries.
A consequence of the inability of individual African states to maintain law and order, to varying degrees, has opened the door to the possibility of some level of continental federalization in the form of CEMZA or the combination of other zones. under the African maritime domain (DMA).
West Africa presents coastal countries where the problems are particularly felt. The area has attracted industrial fishing vessels from all over the world, especially from China, while controls have remained woefully inadequate over the past decade.
A series of non-transparent practices often make government audits and control difficult. Frequent changes in owner, flag country, registration, poor maintenance of databases and shipping records represent a significant challenge for state authorities and non-governmental organizations (e.g. Sea Shepherd Global, Environmental Justice Foundation) concerned with fishing rights in Africa.
There are irregularities in the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and the non-use or improper use of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). On July 22, 2021, the Defense Innovation Unit and Global Fishing Watch, a non-profit organization that uses satellites to visualize global fishing activities, announced a new AI challenge to tackle IUU fishing to combat this transnational crime.
Likewise, an international program to monitor illegal fishing from space has been launched by the Canadian government – as noted by Rosie Frost (January 2021) in “What are illegal ‘black ships’ and why satellites do they spy? in Euronews – https://www.euronews.com/green/2021/02/25/what-are-illegal-dark-vessels-and-why-are-satellites-spying-on-them. It can use environmental conditions, including water temperature and chlorophyll levels, to determine where the fish will be.
Along with the fish come fishermen and fishing women who help reduce the areas on which government authorities need to fully focus, thereby helping them to locate, identify and ban illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
This information should be shared with the central body of the Combined EEZ not only to gather evidence, but also to help local fishing communities make a living. The current focus on environmental concerns around the world has drawn attention to the global fisheries and aquaculture crisis and the need to manage these industries in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Indigenous communities have become essential partners in international climate, environment and development missions in pursuit of global sustainability. In many West African countries, fishing continues to be practiced by artisanal means, often by poor fishermen.
One example is the wooden canoes mainly used in West Africa from Mauritania to Senegal, on which a crew of less than ten people usually embark and stay at sea for a few days. Canoes, gillnets and handlines are widely used throughout Africa, while the use of indigenous industrial fishing vessels is still low.
Activities related to the fishing sector, characterized by high labor intensity and low capital, employ millions of people across West Africa. In today’s world, many people turn to information and communications technology to go about their daily business. Fishermen in Africa also need access to technological solutions.
Having a combined EEZ, working with international partners and using technology allows them to maintain local standards. Sustainable development can only be achieved by working with local communities to create employment opportunities in an environment of trust.
In short, unity is necessary for the survival of local fishing communities. Large Marine Ecosystems (GEMs) in Africa are shared by 33 coastal countries and 600 million people. Illegal fishing accounts for over US $ 2 billion in lost profits each year – as noted by Vishal Surbun (February 2021) in “Concept of Africa’s Combined Exclusive Maritime Zone” in Institute for Security Studies, Africa Report 32 – https://issafrica.org/research/africa-report/africas-combined-exclusive-maritime-zone-concept.
On November 10, 2020, a new app was released called DASE (which means “proof” in the Fante dialect of Ghana) by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) – as EJF staff noted (November 10 2020) in “New Phone The application is an effective weapon in Ghana’s fight against illegal fishing” in Foundation for Environmental Justice –Https: //ejfoundation.org/news-media/new-phone-app-is-effective-weapon-in-ghanas-fight-against-illegal-fishing.
Communities in Ghana and Liberia can use it to gather evidence against illegal vessels, mainly industrial trawlers flying foreign flags. When a vessel is seen fishing illegally or damaging canoes, the user takes a picture of the boat through the app with its name / ID number and records the geo-satellite position.
The app uploads the report to a central database where the government can use the evidence to catch and sanction the perpetrators. A similar application should be introduced in Ajami, an Arabic script, in West Africa. Ajami is a form of literacy that remains prevalent throughout West Africa with little or no government support. In East Africa and the Horn of Africa swahili Should be used. The idea is to find a way to connect with local people to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Fishing is not just a livelihood, it is a culture and a way of life. Collaborative management and decision-making can help Indigenous peoples maintain their professional skills and pride in their culture. Organizations are formed to promote peace, values and the well-being of citizens.
Coordinating efforts to restore the economy, manage risks and remove barriers helps reduce costs and create a larger market for local fishing communities. Although there are several challenges mentioned in the operationalization of the Combined Exclusive Maritime Zone for Africa (CEMZA) in terms of sovereignty and maritime rights, a more significant challenge is the food insecurity and poverty that stem from the ‘Increase in transnational organized crime and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by countries like China.
In addition, there are environmental crimes, degradation of the marine environment, loss of biodiversity and the disastrous effects of climate change and global warming. However, the establishment of CEMZA and the use of several technologies are absolutely essential to develop and maintain a pan-African collaboration that brings substantial change and protection for vulnerable local fishing communities. Africa needs CEMZA to be a tiger with teeth and claws.
Geetika Chandwani is completing her Masters at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, New Jersey, where Professor Purnaka L. de Silva teaches as part of the Masters program.