The African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources held its first Steering Committee of the Conserving Aquatic Biodiversity Project on 22-23 September 2022 in Mombasa, Kenya. In attendance was the Swedish Embassy to the African Union; Hon Representatives of Governments of Egypt, Gabon, Cote D'Ivoire, and the representative of the Hon. Min. in charge of Fisheries and Blue Economy, Kenya. In addition were Regional Economic Communities, Regional Fisheries Bodies, Network organization in Fisheries and Aquaculture, and AU Centres of Excellence.
Speaking during the meeting opening, Dr Nick Nwankpa, AU-IBAR Acting Director, on behalf of the Commissioner H.E. The Commissioner for Agriculrure, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment, Ambassader Yosefa Sacko, expressed gratitude to the Government of Sweden for taking the giant step to address key issues in African blue economy especially relating to conserving aquatic biodiversity. He noted, "This is by far an important intervention in supporting the implementation of the African Blue Economy Strategy. Given that the African continent is losing a conservative estimate of about 10 billion USD annually from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, also facing aquatic environmental pollution and habitat degradation leading to ecosystem dysfunction, this support could not have come at a better time. This support is also significant in aligning with the aspirations of the African Union development encapsulated in the AU Agenda 2063."
Some of the outcomes of the meeting included:
• The adoption of the Terms of Reference for the Project Technical Committee, Chairperson and the Secretariat;
• Better awareness of the project activities that were presented to the Steering Committee
• Feedback on the status of the project implementation, including progress on implementation of activities and challenges made known to committee members;
• Information on planned and ongoing activities by relevant partners made known to committee members;
• Passed recommendations for the strategic direction of the Project developed.
Some of the modalities discussed to strengthen the Project better was the need to develop assessment criteria for the upcoming identification of the Centres of Excellence (CoE) to ensure sustainability aspects are addressed at the beginning. A further recommendation was that the assessment details the capacity of the CoE to institutionalize, domesticate, customize and include posterity aspects in the core curriculum development. The meeting further discussed the role of the RECs in strengthening Project implementation by establishing partnerships and networking during the project implementation to increase the impact on the ground.
The meeting discussed many topical issues, key of which was IUU as a critical challenge in African Union Member States. There was consensus that more resources should be available to address the IUU problem in the marine and inland waters. It was also recognized that institutions such as FAO, and Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), have data on IUU. Effects would be made to improve data sharing with other institutions to transfer knowledge and strengthen capacity. Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) was seen as a necessity to fast-track IUU issues, and the limited skills and knowledge on MCS could be bridged through institutional information sharing of the expert list and recommendations of experts with qualifications and competence on MCSs.
Speaking at the close of the meeting Dr Kouadio N'gandi Jean-Serge, Technical Adviser, Representing the Minister of Animal And Fisheries Resources of Côte D'ivoire, Mr Sidi Tiemoko Toure noted the important role of the Project in improving the political environment, regulatory frameworks and institutional capacities of the AU Member States and Regional Economic Communities to sustainably use and conserve biodiversity and aquatic ecosystems.
The meeting was preceded by the Conserving Aquatic Biodiversity Project Technical Committee Meeting that was held on 20-21 September 2022 at the same venue.