Like piracy, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing tends to occur in areas marred by insecurity challenges, underdevelopment and poor governance. The European Commission has identified IUU fishing as a key risk for its strategy purposes in the Gulf of Guinea.
Despite ongoing overexploitation concerns, the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a strategically important fishing ground for European fleets. The existence of bilateral fisheries agreements between the EU and Cape Verde, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe and Mauritania speak for themselves. Further, private licence agreements also provide European vessels with access to the EEZs of other nations in the region.
A recent article by Ioannis Chapsos (see full text here), of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies, also highlights the importance of the Gulf of Guinea as a source of oil and gas for the EU, particularly in the light of recent tensions with the Russian Federation (currently Europe’s key energy supplier).
It is therefore hardly surprising that the EU is seeking to understand and address insecurity issues in the Gulf. What is interesting is that IUU fishing is being given such relevance in the context of European objectives. Perhaps this is a sign of the EU’s recognition that illegal fishing has a powerful destabilising potential. It can derail fledgling coastal development and resilience initiatives as well as persistently undermine attempts at sustainability in the fishing industry itself.
Implementation efforts by the Gulf of Guinea Commission, ECCAS and ECOWAS concerning their ‘Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships and Illicit Activity in West and Central Africa’ will no doubt be key to future EU strategy development and outcomes.
With the region’s economic outlook and value as emerging market raising expectations despite persistent risks, there is unprecedented interest in IUU fishing, its effects on West Africa and, more widely, on Europe’s long term interests.