West & Central African Conservationists Launch new Effort to Save Aquatic Wildlife

West & Central African Conservationists Launch new Effort to Save Aquatic Wildlife
July 24, 2018 2:37 pm News

Over the years, in wildlife conservation, there has been a lot of targeted effort into saving and conservation of terrestrial species, however their aquatic counterparts have not received as much attention. Interestingly, these aquatic species are under equal threat, some of which we do not fully understand due to the lack of data, especially in the West Africa region. Acknowledging this issue and the urgent need for a more focused attention on those aquatic endangered, threatened and protected species, WA BiCC joined forces with the Abidjan Convention Secretariat, OceanCare and Wild Migration to catalyze the Abidjan Aquatic Wildlife Partnership (AAWP) during the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Abidjan Convention in March 2017.

The Partnership was officially launched during the CMS COP in Manila, Philippines to rally stakeholders and governments to provide a coordinated effort in stopping these Aquatic Endangered and Threatened and Protected species (ETPs) from extinction. For this Partnership to be effective, there is the need for a clear strategy/action plan to serve as a guide in delivering their mandate. For this purpose, the Partners have brought together subject matter experts and CITES focal points from the 15 ECOWAS Members States in Abidjan, to develop an Action Plan for the Partnership and to validate the findings of a study that helps to better understand the threats and status of these species in the region.

The workshop started with WA BiCC’s Chief of Party, Stephen Kelleher, Abou Bamba, the Regional Coordinator of the Abidjan Convention Secretariat and Joanna Toole of OceanCare, setting the tone and agenda for the next 3 days and laying out the task ahead of the participants which according to Joanna is “to establish a common understanding at the regional level with regards to the approaches and objectives needed to deal with Aquatic ETP.”

Following up, Michael Balinga, WA BiCC’s Biodiversity Conservation Specialist and Joanna jointly presented on the AAWP journey from its inception to destination which is a finalized action plan that is adopted by the Parties to the Convention.

This set the tone for other presentations from participants and experts such as Anna Nuno from the University of Exeter, Yahya Khams from Togo Welfare, Alice Stroud from Born Free USA, Thomas Diagne from African Manatee Project, Dr. Isidore Ayissi from the Cameroonian Association for Marine Biology Promotion, among others.  From these rich presentations, it is clear that although the issues are myriad in nature from country to country and region to region, there are some fundamental similarities such as lack of data, inadequate capacity, legislation and enforcement and lack of coordination. This prompted Michael Balinga to admit that; “From the scoping study on the status of Aquatic ETP species in West Africa we did, we realize we need to tackle the issues from the global, regional and national levels and consider all these perspectives.”

The presentations were followed by break out group sessions where participants worked together to provide feedback on the various presentations, make suggestions and give a summary of the state of affairs. An interesting take from one of the groups was that the strengths of these participants in this workshop are the diversity of stakeholders and the fact that there are already many initiatives which can serve as learning grounds and contribute to databases such as the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) database.

The participants noted that although there are already many initiatives at local to national level that need to be scaled out, it is obvious that resources are limited hence the need for synergy and coordination reinforcement between scientists, communities and policy makers.

We will be back tomorrow working a step further to finalizing an action plan. For live updates on this workshop, please visit aawp.wabicc.org.





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