Protecting Fishing Part of Maritime Security, Africa Command Deputy Says
Meeting with Ghanaian fishermen and West African navy personnel, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, stressed that maritime security includes protecting fishing grounds and building partnerships between militaries
TAKORADI, Ghana - Nana Ekow Akon, chief of the Takoradi fishing community, speaks with U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, on March 2, 2009. Yates visited West Africa to discuss international cooperation in illegal fishing, counter-narcotics and illicit trafficking. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 6: TAKORADI, Ghana - Nana Ekow Akon, chief of the Takoradi fishing community, speaks with U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, on March 2, 2009. Yates visited West Africa to discuss international cooperation in illegal fishing, counter-narcotics and illicit trafficking. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
TAKORADI, Ghana - A traditional fishing boat sails in the Gulf of Guinea near the fishing village of Takoradi, west of Ghana's capital, Accra, on March 2, 2009. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, met with local fishermen to discuss ways that maritime security programs can protect fishing stocks, which are a vital source of food in West Africa. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 6: TAKORADI, Ghana - A traditional fishing boat sails in the Gulf of Guinea near the fishing village of Takoradi, west of Ghana's capital, Accra, on March 2, 2009. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, met with local fishermen to discuss ways that maritime security programs can protect fishing stocks, which are a vital source of food in West Africa. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
SEKONDI, Ghana - Fishing boats return to harbor with the day's catch in the twin towns of Sekondi-Takoradi on March 2, 2009. Fishing is a major part of the Ghanaian diet, and U.S. Africa Command works with international partners to help African maritime forces patrol their waters. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 3 of 6: SEKONDI, Ghana - Fishing boats return to harbor with the day's catch in the twin towns of Sekondi-Takoradi on March 2, 2009. Fishing is a major part of the Ghanaian diet, and U.S. Africa Command works with international partners to help African maritime forces patrol their waters. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
TAKORDI, Ghana - Women walk along the waterfront in the fishing town of Takoradi, Ghana, on March 2, 2009. The majority of Ghana's 23 million live along the nation's 334-mile coast on the Gulf of Guinea. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, was visiting Ghana at the beginning of March during a tour of West Africa to discuss international cooperation in counternarcotics and stemming illegal fishing and criminal trafficking. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 4 of 6: TAKORDI, Ghana - Women walk along the waterfront in the fishing town of Takoradi, Ghana, on March 2, 2009. The majority of Ghana's 23 million live along the nation's 334-mile coast on the Gulf of Guinea. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, was visiting Ghana at the beginning of March during a tour of West Africa to discuss international cooperation in counternarcotics and stemming illegal fishing and criminal trafficking. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
TAKORADI, Ghana - Ambassador Mary C. Yates, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy and a former U.S. ambassador to Ghana, meets leaders of the Takoradi fishing community on March 2, 2009, from right, Chief Nana Ekow Akon, Steven Otoo, and Samuel Kwesi. Yates visited West Africa to discuss international cooperation in illegal fishing, counter-narcotics and illicit trafficking. Addressing these illegal activities requires close coordination between many government offices, agencies and ministries. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 5 of 6: TAKORADI, Ghana - Ambassador Mary C. Yates, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy and a former U.S. ambassador to Ghana, meets leaders of the Takoradi fishing community on March 2, 2009, from right, Chief Nana Ekow Akon, Steven Otoo, and Samuel Kwesi. Yates visited West Africa to discuss international cooperation in illegal fishing, counter-narcotics and illicit trafficking. Addressing these illegal activities requires close coordination between many government offices, agencies and ministries. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
TAKORADI, Ghana - A man carries a large container of fresh fish atop his head on a main street in the fishing village of Takoradi on March 2, 2009. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, met with local fishermen to discuss ways that maritime security programs can protect fishing stocks, which are a vital source of food in West Africa. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 6 of 6: TAKORADI, Ghana - A man carries a large container of fresh fish atop his head on a main street in the fishing village of Takoradi on March 2, 2009. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, met with local fishermen to discuss ways that maritime security programs can protect fishing stocks, which are a vital source of food in West Africa. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
TAKORADI, Ghana - Nana Ekow Akon, chief of the Takoradi fishing community, speaks with U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, on March 2, 2009. Yates visited West Africa to discuss international cooperation in illegal fishing, counter-narcotics and illicit trafficking. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
TAKORADI, Ghana - A traditional fishing boat sails in the Gulf of Guinea near the fishing village of Takoradi, west of Ghana's capital, Accra, on March 2, 2009. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, met with local fishermen to discuss ways that maritime security programs can protect fishing stocks, which are a vital source of food in West Africa. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
SEKONDI, Ghana - Fishing boats return to harbor with the day's catch in the twin towns of Sekondi-Takoradi on March 2, 2009. Fishing is a major part of the Ghanaian diet, and U.S. Africa Command works with international partners to help African maritime forces patrol their waters. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
TAKORDI, Ghana - Women walk along the waterfront in the fishing town of Takoradi, Ghana, on March 2, 2009. The majority of Ghana's 23 million live along the nation's 334-mile coast on the Gulf of Guinea. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, was visiting Ghana at the beginning of March during a tour of West Africa to discuss international cooperation in counternarcotics and stemming illegal fishing and criminal trafficking. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
TAKORADI, Ghana - Ambassador Mary C. Yates, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy and a former U.S. ambassador to Ghana, meets leaders of the Takoradi fishing community on March 2, 2009, from right, Chief Nana Ekow Akon, Steven Otoo, and Samuel Kwesi. Yates visited West Africa to discuss international cooperation in illegal fishing, counter-narcotics and illicit trafficking. Addressing these illegal activities requires close coordination between many government offices, agencies and ministries. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
TAKORADI, Ghana - A man carries a large container of fresh fish atop his head on a main street in the fishing village of Takoradi on March 2, 2009. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, met with local fishermen to discuss ways that maritime security programs can protect fishing stocks, which are a vital source of food in West Africa. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
Meeting with Ghanaian fishermen and West African navy personnel, U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, stressed that maritime security includes protecting fishing grounds and building partnerships between militaries and civil authorities. This partnership, she said, can help to counter a host of illegal activities, including unregulated fishing and drug trafficking. Yates visited Ghana's coastal cities of Takoradi and Sekondi in early March 2009, during a West Africa trip. At the request of the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, she met with elders at the Takoradi fishing village to discuss the problems they face as they try to compete with foreign fishing vessels that enter their waters and harvest enormous volumes of fish. "These large ships are obstructing our way of life," Nana Ekow Akon, chief of the Takoradi fishing community, told Yates through his interpreter. "The fishing trawlers come from other countries. Their large nets sweep away all the catch, leaving nothing for local fisherman." Nana Akon said his fishermen take digital photos of the illegal industrial fishing, and use their cell phones to try to report illegal activities, but they have little success in getting authorities to intervene. Compounding the problem, new oil platforms off the coast are changing fish population patterns. Even legal fishing by industrial ships can take place on such a large scale that it depletes local catches. The majority of Ghanaians live near the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, and fish are a major part of the Ghanaian diet. International maritime laws regulate the fishing in national and international waters, and Ghanaian laws further regulate coast waters for the protection of local fishing communities. However, many nations such as Ghana lack adequate maritime resources to enforce Yates, meeting with African naval personnel and local reporters, said fishing stocks represent a significant natural resource for African coastal communities. She also noted that protecting fish resources requires international cooperation as well as coordination between different government offices and ministries. "The focus of the trip is to look at the illegal trafficking, the illicit trafficking in people, in narcotics, also the illegal fishing," Yates told an international crew aboard the USS Nashville during her March 2 visit to coastal Ghana. ILLEGAL FISHING HARMS ECONOMY "The illegal fishing is equally important because it takes away from the economic prosperity of the people," said Yates, who is U.S. AFRICOM's deputy to the commander for civil-military activities. Yates, a former U.S. ambassador to Ghana, visited Takoradi and Sekondi on March 2, 2009, during a West Africa trip. Local journalists said leaders from the fishing community are reluctant to approach the Ghanaian navy base for assistance with their fishing concerns because of distrust between the civilian community and navy personnel. Yates said the U.S. Africa Command is working to promote the professionalism of Ghana's military, which is a major contributor to international peacekeeping, and asked journalists to help build bridges of understanding between the local navy base and the fishing communities. During her visit, Yates emphasized the following points: Illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries are a global problem, requiring international cooperation to halt this theft of natural resources. Properly managed, fishing is a major renewable resource that feeds people and provides billions of dollars of income. Theft or unregulated fishing can deplete stocks, destroying resources for future generations. Causes of illegal or unregulated fishing include: economic incentives, excess fleet capacity, as well as lack of management and ineffective monitoring. Counter-narcotics, illegal fishing and illegal maritime trafficking are areas of emphasis for U.S. relations in West Africa. Along with visiting the Takoradi fishing community, Yates went aboard the U.S. Navy's Africa Partnership Station ship USS Nashville. The ship is on a five-month visit to West African nations to promote cross-border cooperation and to help African maritime security forces increase their ability to patrol coastal waters. Africa Partnership is coordinated by U.S. Africa Command's U.S. Naval Forces Africa. The Nashville, which operates as a floating schoolhouse and conference center, is visiting Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Gabon and Cameroon, and dropped off a shore party in Liberia. The crew consists of members of 20 nations, including 10 African nations. The Nashville also has non-military members aboard, including a representative from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. government agency focused on environmental sciences. FISHERIES ARE A 'CROSS-OVER' CIVIL-MILITARY TOPIC "Fisheries are not a core competency of the U.S. Naval Forces Africa or U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM)," said Lieutenant Commander Mike Baker, a West Africa desk officer with Africa Command's Engagement Division. "However, fisheries tie very closely to our main efforts of developing partner capacity in maritime safety and security, and supporting maritime sector development," Baker said. "Fisheries are a 'cross-over' topic, in that fishing fleets sometimes are involved in narcotics trafficking." Many of the techniques to counter illegal fishing can also be used to counter other maritime challenges, Baker said. In addition, most African navies function as Coast Guards are coastal patrols, and their key mandates include protection of natural resources. For this reason, the U.S. Coast Guard has been working alongside many African navy forces, said Captain Phil Heyl, a Coast Guard officer and maritime security advisor assigned to Africa Command. "U.S. Africa Command is committed to supporting African efforts to build sustainable maritime security capabilities to protect critical resources like fisheries," Heyl said. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard do not actively patrol African waters. Instead, they work with African maritime forces to increase the ability of African forces to better patrol and protect their own waters. "West African countries have shown a desire to stop poaching and other illegal activities in their offshore waters.," Heyl said. Africa Partnership Station, a long-term maritime program, has used both U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy vessels to work with African Coast Guards, navies and other African agencies "to develop boarding techniques and procedures, inspections of cargo and fishing vessel licenses, and search for illegal, unreported, or unregulated fish, as well as other illegal items," Heyl said. "The key," he said, "is to work with other U.S. government agencies, such as NOAA to provide the assistance to African coast guards to develop long-term capacity to enforce African laws." SCIENTISTS URGE U.S. MILITARY TO BE CAREFUL AMBASSADORS Teresa Turk, a fisheries biologist with NOAA, said the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and NOAA can be an effective team to coordinate with their counterpart agencies in African governments when addressing illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, along with marine security and drug trafficking. "These issues all converge in West Africa," Turk said. A strong point of the Africa Partnership Station ships is that they build diverse crews from many nations, developing improved professional networks. However, she also urged U.S. Navy members, who may visit a particular area for a few days or weeks, to work hard to understand local cultures and ensure that their actions fit in with long-term U.S. goals so they don't undermine those who work in a region for many years. For example, she said, U.S. Navy sailors and NOAA scientists are viewed by African partners as essentially the same -- all are Americans. Africa Partnership Station "is perfect as a transportation means to Africa and as a networking hub" to share ideas with local authorities, Turk said. Instead of creating a core fisheries competency within Department of Defense organizations, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Africa Command "are providing a platform for DoD to work with other agencies and actors to both engage local communities and states in the arena of fisheries and to help coordinate the role of fisheries with MSS (the Maritime Security Sector) writ large," said Augustus Vogel, a representative from the Office of the Oceanographer of the US. Navy, who is aboard the Africa Partnership Station's USS Nashville. On major APS ship deployments, such as Fort McHenry in 2007-08, High Speed Vessel Swift in 2008 and Nashville in 2009, U.S. Naval Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command have included efforts to support NOAA science and environmental programs, Vogel said. These efforts included: training of national fisheries observers from Ghana (in April 2008 on HSV-2 SWIFT); and Senegal (February 2009 on NASHVILLE). "Fisheries observers ride industrial fishing vessels to collect science data (fish statistics like sizes, weights, and species; marine mammal, bird and turtle information) and/or monitor for illegal activity," Vogel said. "Science data are used for creating laws and regulations (i.e., how many fish can be taken from an area, and what size should they be)," Vogel said. "So both activities are vital to surveillance and enforcement operations for Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported Fishing." In addition, he said, "We are also working with USAID to develop coordination with the diversity of organizations needed to address the complexity of fisheries." This complexity includes "engagement in local communities/civil society, research community, management community, organizations with surveillance assets, patrolling and enforcement organizations, and legal institutions," Vogel said. This coordination is important, he added, "because success in one area would be negated by a lack of parallel improvement in other areas."
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