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International Development in West Africa

Liberian artisanal fishing boat.

NOAA's technical experts providing on-site Turtle Excluder Device (TED) training in Gabon to the shrimp trawl fishery.

Salted fish drying at a Liberian fishing village.

The countries of West Africa have some of the most productive near shore waters in the world. In West Africa, fish or seafood products provide an estimated 60-70% of the nation’s protein supply. The lack of information and oversight in fisheries management has resulted in declining marine stocks, many of which are vital to providing fish to the local markets. 

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is also a major problem the region faces, as rogue vessels attempt to supply increasing seafood demand from developed nations. Accurate information on the scale and impact of IUU fishing is difficult to obtain. However, it is estimated that between 10 and 23.5 billion US dollars occurs in IUU catches world-wide, each year. The loss in revenue, loss of employment, and loss of food source from IUU fishing are significant impacts to developing nations.

Our West Africa international development efforts focus on the following priority areas.

Ongoing Projects in West Africa

Turtle Conservation

The region of West Africa supports globally important nesting and foraging populations of green turtles, leatherbacks, and loggerheads, as well as smaller populations of ridleys, and hawksbills. The impact of fisheries on sea turtle populations in West Africa is suspected to be high and studies are underway in several countries to evaluate and address the impact of artisanal fisheries on sea turtles. In 2006, at the invitation of the government of Gabon, the NOAA Fisheries SEFSC Harvesting Systems Unit, in collaboration with turtle experts and conservation groups held an introductory Turtle Excluder Device (TEDs) workshop in Libreville. Since then, the government of Gabon has remained engaged in the development of a TEDs program for their shrimp and fish trawl fishery. A TEDs project has also been successfully launched in Nigeria. The next steps involve improving regional collaboration in order to share experiences and build African expertise so that TEDs are implemented more widely in the west-central African region with the intent to further broaden the project to neighboring countries of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo.

Shark Conservation

Many coastal communities in West Africa depend on shark fisheries and trade for their livelihood; yet achieving sustainable shark fisheries and shark conservation globally continues to be a problem. Many shark species are threatened by overfishing and/or bycatch. Additionally, the lack of monitoring and species-level identification of sharks and fins entering international trade present a real challenge for effective shark management. NOAA Fisheries has been working to promote sustainable shark management internationally through workshops on species identification, observer program training and enforcement training. A first workshop, scheduled for 2014, is expected to be the first in a series of workshops aimed at capacity building for West African countries on implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) shark listings. This workshop will provide the foundation for future collaboration between West African countries and help ensure that trade of shark species in this region is sustainable and does not threaten their survival.

Fisheries Legal and Enforcement Trainings

One of the most effective ways of assisting developing countries with fisheries management and enforcement is through fisheries observer training programs. These programs train people on the ground to become fisheries observers; teaching them how to effectively collect critical fisheries catch and bycatch data needed to develop and implement appropriate fisheries management measures. In an effort to target and combat IUU fishing in West Africa, NOAA Fisheries has conducted observer trainings in Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Gabon in the last three years. To complement this ongoing work to build an observer program in Liberia and Sierra Leone, NOAA’s Office of General Counsel International Section and Office of Law Enforcement developed and conducted two legal and enforcement trainings in fisheries which focused on the general foundation and understanding of the legal tools available to monitor and enforce fisheries regulations in each country. Currently NOAA is focused on continuing international development in the region, with a focus on long-term sustainable fisheries.

For questions about our international development efforts in West Africa, please contact Oriana Villar (