- The Canary Current, which provides relatively cool and nutrition rich water to the West African coast from Morocco to Guinea, hosts an important marine ecosystem that is now to be better protected. The seven coastal countries bordering the Canary Current are seeking to find a new management model and to counter overfishing.
According to the environmentalist organisation IUCN, the Canary Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME) Project "made good progress at its first sub-regional workshop in Saly, Senegal, towards the establishment of a multi-country cross-sectoral regional management initiative."
The Canary Current spans a region of highly productive fisheries, critical to the food security of the coastal populations of Morocco, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Yet, the fisheries are severely threatened by excessive fishing, urban runoff and offshore petroleum exploitation, according to IUCN.
The project, supported by the seven coastal countries bordering the Canary Current, aims at reversing the fisheries depletion and habitat degradation in the region. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) are guiding the coordination of this initiative. The sub-regional Fisheries Commission and international environmentalist organisations are amongst the key collaborators.
Over the coming eight months, the CCLME project is expected to prepare a diagnostic analysis of the main trans-boundary issues affecting the ecosystem, and focus on finding regional country consensus on actions to address these issues.
The first sub-regional consultation workshop, held in Saly from 10-12 October 2005, had provided "the first crucial step for the seven nations to jointly drive the CCLME initiative in addressing shared problems in their marine and coastal environment," according to IUCN.
In a next step, the countries are to identify the principal shared problems, their root causes, and define national, regional, and trans-boundary priorities for action. At the same time, large-scale ecosystem-wide assessments on fisheries, water quality, socio-economic and governance issues are to be carried out.
The CCLME initiative aims to collaborate with and thereby strengthen the numerous national and regional projects ongoing in the areas of fisheries, pollution, socio-economics, policy, law and institutions. Partners in the programme therefore include the management of important coastal wetlands, such as Mauritania's Banc d'Arguin.
The Canary Current's highly productive fisheries include industrial fishing for offshore tuna, small pelagics, shrimp and octopus; intensive artisanal fishing of demersals and small pelagics, and small-scale artisanal fishing in Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea.
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