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International Development in West Africa

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Liberian artisanal fishing boat.

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

Shark identification training - these fins are used to help local authorities identify key shark species. A direct product of the Senegal workshop was the development of a shark identification guide for shark and ray species.  

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. Fish or seafood products provide an estimated 60-70% of the region's protein supply. However, 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. The loss in revenue, loss of employment, and loss of food source from Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing are also significant impacts to developing nations.

The Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection (IASI) manages a yearly, competitive, discretionary  Federal Funding Opportunity. The Fisheries International Cooperation and Assistance Program encourages special projects and programs associated with IASI's mission goals aimed to promote international cooperation to achieve effective and responsible marine stewardship and ensure sustainable global fisheries and protected marine species management. This funding opportunity is a mechanism to build international cooperation that supports science-based management and strengthens our existing international development work, building strategic partnerships with West African nations. Currently, our West Africa international development efforts focus on the following priority areas.

  1. Combating IUU fishing in the region;
  2. Advancing relevant fisheries management measures adopted by international and regional fisheries management organizations; and
  3. Supporting scientific based activities, such as fisheries observer programs and conservation of key marine species, such sharks, sea turtles and cetaceans.  

Projects in West Africa

Improved Governance through Legal and Enforcement Capacity Building

NOAA’s Office of General Counsel and Office of Law Enforcement have provided a number of legal and enforcement trainings and workshops focused on the general foundation and understanding of the legal tools available to monitor and enforce fisheries regulations. These trainings aim to assist African countries in prosecuting fisheries violations and help strengthen and promote interagency, and regional collaboration. Participating countries include Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cape Verde, and Ghana.

Capacity Building to Implement CITES

NOAA has worked to advance the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). There is a need for development of basic information to strengthen the institutional knowledge of national CITES authorities, port, customs and enforcement authorities, and the judiciary system regarding their respective role and responsibilities in the enforcement of CITES.

Sea Turtle Conservation and Management

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. NOAA IASI in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries SEFSC Harvesting Systems Unit continues to support improving regional collaboration and building African expertise so that Turtle Excluder Device (TEDs) are implemented more widely in the west-central African region. NOAA is currently working with Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea.

Shark Conservation and Management

Many coastal communities in West Africa depend on shark fisheries and trade for their livelihood; yet achieving sustainable shark fisheries and shark conservation 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 shark products entering international trade present a real challenge for effective shark management. NOAA Fisheries collaborates with the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission to strengthen the capacities of its seven member states (Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Guinea, and Sierra Leone) to update, harmonize and enforce the implementation of the National Plans of Action for sharks in the seven member states and promote a regional policy to require sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached to discourage fishermen from taking the fins off of sharks and dumping the carcasses at sea.

Cetacean Conservation and Management

There continues to be a lack of marine mammal data from West African countries. Robust and reliable science and data collection is a priority for IASI. Obtaining robust and reliable data and science leads to effective fisheries management. With this in mind a number of different initiatives relating to improving and harmonizing data collection, developing management tools to reduce entanglement risk, and supporting the development of a stranding network are currently being funded by IASI.

Improved Fisheries Management Through Collection

NOAA has collaborated to train West African fisheries officials and students on a variety of topics to work towards improving, harmonizing, and strengthening fisheries observer programs. As a result of the shared interest in developing, improving, and expanding fisheries observer programs in the regions of West Africa, NOAA along with our African partners, have drafted an observer program manual.

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