West & Central African Conservationists Launch new Effort to Save Aquatic Wildlife; Day 2

West & Central African Conservationists Launch new Effort to Save Aquatic Wildlife; Day 2
July 25, 2018 12:20 pm News

After a positive tone and momentum was firmly established on Day 1, the second day of the Abidjan Aquatic Wildlife Partnership Workshop got underway with a recap of the first day’s proceedings. Participants then dived into a plenary discussion focused on ensuring that the Mission of the AAWP aligns with the spirit and letter of the decision taken by the Parties to the Abidjan Convention present at the 12th Conference of the Parties in March 2017 to establish the Partnership. Issues and questions emerged, such as the need to establish a focal list of species that the Partnership would focus on, at least initially, as well as the need for a set of criteria to guide the species selection process. It was agreed that a process for prioritization would help to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the Partnership and take into consideration available resources and expertise. The points of discussion were certainly critical for this emerging initiative, and the assembly reaffirmed the value of the Partnership and the need to increase awareness and find and apply solutions on issues related to the survival of Aquatic species. The consensus was that, by the end of the workshop, a clear and common understanding of the Partnership’s mandate is needed, as well as its reach and relation to the role of Parties to the Convention.

After valuable and informative exchanges, participants proceeded to review and further develop the action plan, with a focus on its mandate to Empower Stakeholders with Knowledge. This work was undertaken in breakout groups facilitated by Kenan Mogultay, WA BiCC’s Technical Advisor to the Abidjan Convention. The session’s objective was to identify the role the Partnership can play in response to information gaps by further defining and detailing issues related to data collection, management and dissemination of existing information.

The subsequent breakout session explored how to “Address Key Driving Factors” that threaten the species in question. Reporting for his group Nana Adu Nsiah, the Director of Wildlife in Ghana, said “we need to do more monitoring, ensure stronger legislation and pay attention to some socio-cultural factors such as culture and spirituality and also provide livelihood alternatives. This is a pathway to achieving stakeholder empowerment to address these issues”.

From the ensuing discussions, the underlying assumption of the need for the Partnership was reaffirmed – that there is insufficient data and large gaps on the status and trade volumes of many aquatic species underscoring, among other actions, the need to undertake a mapping of the trade in aquatic threatened and/or protected species and the identification of trade hotspots. By example, it was noted that most coastal countries have some information on sea turtles, but there are huge gaps in data on fresh water turtles, manatees, crocodiles, sea horses, rays and sharks. One of the immediate next steps requested by participants was for the Partnership to establish a resource center and facilitate information sharing.

The next two breakout sessions of the day focused on Advocacy and Capacity Building. The groups collectively agreed on the need for the Partnership to facilitate stakeholder engagements, promote awareness and mobilize resources for the development and implementation of relevant programs, while leveraging the Convention’s ability to push for the development and adoption of more national legal and regulatory reforms. In terms of capacity building, the Partnership was tasked to identify gaps in key areas such as legislation, data collection and capacity building in (Geographic Information System) GIS and M&E. WA BiCC cited relevant examples, such as the training of judges and prosecutors in more effective prosecution of wildlife crime, and sponsoring 26 professionals across West Africa to attain a Master’s Degree  related to the implementation of CITES as initiatives worth emulating and scaling up.

An impromptu session took place to address the questions raised in the morning regarding the mandate of the Partnership and the process for the selection of focal species. During this session Joanna Toole of OceanCare reminded the group that the mandate of the Partnership came directly from the Parties to the Abidjan Convention at COP12, requiring the Secretariat, to “create a partnership focusing on aquatic mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and present an action plan to the next COP13”. It was agreed that any additional ideas such as the integration of sea birds, rays and sharks, would be captured as recommendations of the group of experts to the Abidjan Convention. Michael Balinga of WA BiCC then presented a preliminary priority list of aquatic birds, mammals, reptiles and cetaceans in West Africa. The list is summarized in a brief prepared by WA BiCC on behalf of the Partnerships and was derived directly from the IUCN Red List and the CITES’ and CMS’ Appendices. Participants proceeded to adopt this list as the basis for developing an action plan, and warmly accepted the Abidjan Convention’s Executive Secretary Abou Bamba’s promise to set up a working group to examine in more depth the need to add other species to this list and ensure periodic revision.

The day concluded with a review of the Partnership Mission Statement. The highlight was the outcome of discussions related to the geographical and technical scopes of the Partnership, which were modified by consensus to englobe all aquatic species and ecosystems including inland rivers and lakes with their linkages to coastal and marine species and ecosystems. This agreement provides the opportunity for the Partnership to integrate inland river systems such as the Niger and the Gambia, which harbor large populations of West African Manatees. Finally, the experts agreed to employ the IUCN terminology for threatened species, in addition to the term “protected” species, to ensure that standard terminology used by the Partnership reflected those of the universally agreed IUCN Red List, as well as those of other major conventions and national legal frameworks.

After all was said and done, Day 2 proved to be a very full and productive day that demonstrated the engagement and appropriation of the process by delegates who, even after the close of proceedings, continued discussing collaboration and establishing new contacts, networks and friendships. From this perspective, it is increasingly evident that a major benefit of the workshop is the opportunity to link specialists across countries and regions.

For live updates on this workshop, please visit aawp.wabicc.org.

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