Projects - African Coastal States

Progress with VMS in W-Africa

29 July 2019
Gana boats Fanti Town
Gana boats Fanti Town

One activity that UNU-FTP is managing as part of  Iceland’s contribution to West Africa fisheries development cooperation is the VMS data analyses project.

Throughout costal Africa so called vessel monitoring systems (VMS) are already operational, complemented by automated identification systems (AIS) at one level or another.

Currently countries like Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been trying to harness these new techniques to combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and strengthen overall Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) capabilities.

In light of this it was decided UNU-FTP could contribute by providing training for specialists in these three countries in the analyses of VMS-data. 

The bulk of this project was carried out in 2018, when two sets of workshops were conducted: A reginal one in Freetown in May (with 13 sponsored participants from Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone); and in-country workshops at VMS-centers in Liberia and Sierra Leone half a year later.

At the same time one fellow from Liberia and one from Sierra Leone graduated from the Six Months Training Program in Iceland, specializing in VMS data analyses.

One more from each country will arrive in September 2019.

Objectives of the project

The VMS project aims to train specialists from MSC-centres in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone to harness new and developing vessel tracking technology in their work.

Synergies with the UNU-FTP Six Month Training Programme will be maximised by inviting fellows from the region to join the programme in Iceland.

Expected outcomes include …

  • Capacity development. Participants will bring technical know-how and managerial skills to the institutions they work for and share it across the region – building up capacity within fragile fisheries governing structures.
  • Better management. Capable of accessing, analysing and reporting VMS data MCS-centres will be in better position to support …
    • Enforcement of fisheries management policies by producing evidence of infringements for prosecution.
    • Research on stock conditions by producing data on fishing activity by vessel, location, period and effort.
  • Transparency. Better management entails more transparency. Most populations are not aware of the losses taking place or the alternative strategies that could be adopted to manage fish stocks and retain the economic benefits. An informed population is in a position to influence its government. With improved transparency, it will give the government pressure to perform and reduce black-box operations.
  • National /regional investment. Lack of access to investment capital, uncertain fiscal regimes and poor infrastructure have all empowered unscrupulous foreigners to take advantage. Foreign investors use large scale industrial vessels that can be independent of poor local infrastructure and export marine production directly to high value markets. MCS-centres VMS-systems constitute part of national and regional infrastructure. Rationalizing their uses and encouraging cross border cooperation represents investments in them.