In May 2013 the Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation among African States Bordering the Atlantic Ocean (ATLAFCO/COMHAFAT), an inter-governmental organisation composed of 22 African States, and the EU Advisory Committee on Long Distance Fishing (LDRAC) signed a memorandum of understanding that establishes a framework of cooperation for promoting fisheries sustainability, in particular through EU and COMHAFAT/COMHAFAT member countries’ relations. At the end of October 2013, they jointly organised a workshop in the European Parliament, on “Improving good governance and [the] fight against IUU through the LDRAC–COMHAFAT dialogue”, gathering representatives from almost all COMHAFAT members’ fisheries administrations, EU administrations, African and European fishing organisations and NGOs.
The workshop looked at ways to develop a dialogue for improving fisheries governance in West and Central Africa, including increasing transparency and the strengthening of monitoring control surveillance in coastal states which, according to the participants, would be the best tools to fight IUU fishing.
The workshop participants decided to establish a joint “Atlantic African–EU fisheries task force”, to elaborate advice on: how to promote transparency; the harmonisation of access conditions; coherence of EU policies (fisheries, trade, development aid policies); and regionalisation aspects (development of the African fisheries reform strategy, regional MCS, regional control procedures).
Participants decided to focus on tuna fisheries as a ‘case study’, to assess the efficiency of regional and harmonised approaches for the management of these fisheries.
The setting up of a more permanent dialogue by means of a “task force”, between stakeholders from EU fisheries and the 22 African country members of the COMHAFAT, is most welcome. It will provide an additional forum where both parties, through sustained exchanges and without the pressure of SFPA (Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement) negotiations, can increase mutual understanding. This forum may also play a key role when the EU starts to define an overall EU fisheries strategy for the Atlantic, as proposed in the EC communication on the external dimension of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It may provide a platform for those parties involved and impacted by this strategy to air their views and become actively engaged in its elaboration and implementation. The focus on tuna fisheries also reflects the increasing importance of tuna fisheries’ relations between the EU and ACP countries (with an increasing number of tuna FPAs being signed/initialled) and some issues that will be part of the dialogue between LDRAC and COMHAFAT, e.g. the harmonisation of access conditions for all foreign fleets in line with high sustainability standards, or better coherence between EU aid objectives and trade, fisheries policies, which are key for a successful implementation of future EU–ACP partnerships.