Feb 14, 2013, 11:36 AM
A three-day technical meeting of ECOWAS experts on fisheries and aquaculture in West Africa ended over the weekend at the Paradise Suites hotel.
The meeting brought together a vast range of stakeholders from government, the fishing industry, and non-governmental organisations with varied expertise and disciplines, whose principal task was to discuss the findings of the work carried by the task force on the formulation of a regional draft program for the development of fisheries and aquaculture in West Africa, which was held in Cotonou from 25th to 27th March 2010.
In his opening remarks, Lamin Kaba Bajo, Minister of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters, said the rational exploitation and sustainable utilization of fisheries and aquaculture represents a key factor in the socio-economic development plan of the country.
According to Mr. Bajo, this technical meeting of experts was about exchanging ideas and experiences, as well as sharing knowledge and increasing understanding of some important issues in fisheries and aquaculture in the sub-region.
He underscored the important role the fisheries sector plays in providing cheap animal protein, employment and foreign exchange earnings in West Africa. The government of the Gambia, he stated, recognised the problem of depleting fishery sectors, degradation of coastal environment and loss of coastal habitats which are trans-boundary in character.
Kaba Bajo stressed that the achievements registered by ECOWAS, since its creation, offers abundant testimony to its commitment and strong desire to create a strong and dynamic organisation to serve the collective interest of its members.
He said it also serves as a viable organ for sub-regional integration, which is the only way forward to achieve success in conserving and preserving the precious fisheries resources for now and posterity.
Minister Bajo highlighted some of the challenges faced in the struggle to ensure that the precious fisheries resources of the sub-region are well conserved and protected.
He said overcoming these strong challenges requires genuine cooperation among and between member states, as well as the support of development partners.
He maintained that in the Gambia, as in many developing coastal countries, the role of the fisheries sector in achieving the national development goals is quite significant, and includes economic growth, poverty alleviation, food security, empowerment, generating revenue and foreign exchange earnings and concern for the environment.
He expressed the need to develop a common ECOWAS policy in the fisheries sector covering both marine and inland areas, and to put in place framework agreements that enable reforming access to fisheries resource, and access to marketing by focusing on a participatory governance of fisheries with the involvement of stakeholders, as well as capacity building.