AFRICOM and law enforcement cooperation enhances maritime security in West Africa

West Africa’s maritime and coastal security has been enhanced as several West African nations joined forces with U.S. Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, Marines and a team from the Environmental Security Program of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).

The partnership came as illegal fishing is on the rise, and can have detrimental affects. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command, said: “Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is not just a crime, it is a destabilising act, especially in parts of the world where people are challenged to feed their families.

“Lawless actors, such as the PRC’s massive commercial fishing fleet, pillage African fisheries taking food out of the mouths of the people of West Africa. It is time for African governments to take a stronger stand against IUU fishing and other maritime crimes in their waters.”

The multinational maritime forces have worked together in a month long project, with two major successes. The first, a Sierra Leonean boarding of a fishing vessel stopped for suspected illegal fishing off the coast of Freetown, with violations that carry potential jail time and fines totalling up to $8 million. The second was a fishing vessel stopped with Cabo Verde law enforcement authorities, resulted in the seizure of approximately six and a half tons of suspected cocaine with an estimated street value at more than $350 million.

West African nations face serious challenges at sea, including IUU, as well as narcotics trafficking. Over the last decade, the United States has steadily increased maritime security cooperation with partners on Africa’s Atlantic coast to improve maritime domain awareness in order to help them protect their sovereign waters.

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