The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has commissioned an earth observation data receiving satellite in Accra as part of measures to ensure sustainable use of fisheries resources in the sub-region.
It will also be used to collect and provide fishermen with information to ensure their safety while at sea.
The commissioning of the satellite formed part of the implementation of the ECOWAS Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) project, initiated in 2010 to ensure continuity of past investments on the use of earth observation data in Africa, among other objectives.
MESA is an ECOWAS initiative funded by the European Union to provide member countries with innovative tools to help manage fisheries resources effectively, among other objectives.
The satellite is located at the ECOWAS Coastal and Marine Resources Management Centre at the University of Ghana, Legon.
As part of the MESA project, the satellite will facilitate the gathering of information and data about the earth's physical, chemical and biological systems to be used to improve management of the environment and security in Africa.
Under the project, Geospatial maps of potential fishing grounds integrated with vessel traffic will be provided to decision-makers to aid monitoring, control and surveillance against Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing.
Additionally, forecast of ocean conditions will be communicated to mariners and artisanal fishers through SMS and other media.
Steering Committee meeting
The earth observation Data receiving satellite was commissioned at a ceremony to open the third steering Committee meeting of MESA in Accra.
The objectives of the meeting were to provide an overview of the MESA project at the regional and national levels, to review activities carried out since the start of the project in 2014 and engage in a policy dialogue to harmonise strategies for the monitoring of small-fishing vessels.
Other objectives include formulating measures to promote the use of geospatial information for the management of marine ecosystems, providing orientation to all stakeholders
The five-day meeting is on the theme “innovative technologies in support of the fisheries sector in West Africa”.
In his remarks at the opening ceremony, ECOWAS’ Director of Environment, Dr Johnson Boanuh, said the satellite would facilitate the overall implementation of the MESA programme, which was launched in 2014.
He said despite the efforts of the ECOWAS region, in collaboration with development partners, the fisheries sector of the continent continued to face challenges that hampered its harmonious development.
Those challenges, he said, were preventing the sector from contributing maximally to food and nutrition security and poverty reduction within member countries.
He cited some of the challenges as the lack of effective and transparent management of fisheries resources; illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing practices; the low development of aquaculture below the hydrographic potential of the region and the weak processing and transparent infrastructure for intra-regional trade of fisheries products.
He was optimistic that the effective implementation of the MESA project would help address the challenges facing the fisheries sector in particular.
In a remark made on her behalf, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Ms Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, expressed the government’s commitment to sustainable management of the fishing industry in Ghana.
“Ghana is currently implementing a marine fisheries management plan, which involves a two-month closed fishing season for tuna vessels and industrial trawlers, supposed to recover depleted fish stock,” she stated.