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Kate Wynne's field trip to the Tema Fish Market in Ghana, West Africa, spring 2008

Sea Grant biologist Kate Wynne visits the Tema Fish Market in Ghana, West Africa, during an international sustainable fishery outreach program in 2008.

SFOS Journeys

Kate Wynne, MAP

Trip Report, Dakar Sénégal, West Africa.
February 2009

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (MSRA) includes "a call for the Secretary of Commerce to work multilaterally through various fora to address illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and bycatch of protected living marine resources (PLMRs)".

Among the DOC's early efforts to offer international cooperation and assistance has been "observer program outreach and capacity building" for nations seeking help to meet these sustainable fishery goals. In the fall of 2007, I was invited by Teresa Turk of NOAA/NMFS International Affairs, Silver Spring, MD to help with such an effort by offering a joint US/Ghana fishery observer training program in Accra, Ghana (31 Mar -11 Apr 2008). My participation was requested by NOAA primarily due to my experience designing observer programs, training observers to identify marine mammals, and authoring the guide used in the program to identify Atlantic marine mammals (Guide to Marine Mammals and Turtles of the US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico). As a Sea Grant biologist, I joined three NMFS biologists to form a 4-person NOAA team that worked with Ghanaian biologists to provide a successful training workshop for 30 government observers.

Following the success of this inaugural international effort, NMFS began planning a similar training effort to be held in Dakar, Sénégal, 1-11 February 2009. Again, in this program my roles were to a) prepare data collection forms, protocols, and instructions (translated into French) for documenting marine mammal sightings and bycatch by government observers aboard foreign vessels fishing in Sénégalese waters, b) prepare and present a visual introduction to the common marine mammals in Sénégal waters, stressing proper identification using my US Atlantic Marine Mammal Guide and the W. African Marine Mammal Placard (translated into French), and c) assist with preparation and presentation of other components of the training, e.g. marine turtle sampling, marine safety training, and logistics for the class of 35 observers.

Kate Wynne and three NMFS biologists gather for a group photograph with participants from their training workshop.

Kate Wynne and three NMFS biologists provide a training workshop for 35 government observers in W. Africa.

Following the formal class instruction, I worked closely with Teresa (NOAA) and Dr. Pierre Meke (Cameroon) to develop goals and discuss ideas for a similar future training in Cameroon. The three of us also met with Drs. Mamadou Diallo and Papa Samba Diouf of World Wildlife Fund Sénégal who share our interests in promoting marine mammal outreach and conservation efforts in W. Africa, developing a marine mammal stranding network, and sustaining observer programs in Senegalese waters. Throughout the week, Dr. Meke and I discussed the possibility of developing a graduate student study/ exchange opportunity within UAF with the intent of building a base of trained MSc-level fishery/marine mammal biologists in Cameroon. He has since forwarded the CVs of two students who are anxious to be considered for such positions if they are formed.

Teresa and I also spent a day working with Dr. Abdoulaye Djiba, Professor au CNFTPA and Museum Curator, Isle de Gorée.   Dr. Djiba assured us of his capacity and interest in handling, examining, and archiving the marine mammal specimens we requested be collected by fishery observers at sea. We also worked with Dr. Djiba to develop a proposal which he submitted to NOAA for material and monetary support of a marine mammal/turtle stranding network in Sénégal. Teresa and I then met researchers at the Centre de Recherches Océanographiques de Dakar-Thiaroye (CRODT) who maintain a 90ft research vessel (R/V Itaf Deme) that can be chartered for joint fish/oceanography/marine mammal surveys.   Mr. Anis Diallo from CRODT then introduced us to the mission and products of the Centre National de Données Océanographiques du Sénégal, a center that has archived W. African oceanographic data since 1940's, and maintains a strong web-based outreach effort. Finally we met with members of the USAID W. Africa Trade Hub to discuss their interest in understanding how the Senegalese fishery observer program might be used to promote local seafood sales- primarily by documenting the product's point of origin and level of turtle and mammal bycatch and by promoting efforts to support sustainable fisheries.

Since returning, I have been included in discussions among NMFS Protected Resources biologists re: how to proceed with development/support of marine mammal research and stranding networks in West Africa, training of observers in Central America, and testing of bycatch-reducing fishing gear. Being invited by NMFS to share my expertise in this capacity is particularly rewarding when they obviously have their own marine mammal biologists on staff. I was told that my broad suite of marine mammal research, observer training, and outreach experience exceeds that of any one person on their staff.

How does my involvement in this program benefit Sea Grant, Alaska, UAF, or SFOS in the long run? Personally, I am rewarded most by the contribution I feel I am making to the identification, understanding, and conservation of marine mammal stocks in these heavily over-fished regions. But my invited participation at the onset of an international program within NOAA also provides UAF and AK Sea Grant with significant visibility and some notoriety at national and international levels. From an academic perspective, my goal is to find a mechanism by which I can help develop graduate level learning/exchange opportunities for foreign students through the University of Alaska, and specifically through the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Lessons we Alaskans can share with future equatorial resource managers/fishery biologists range from monitoring ocean/climate change to sustainably managing fish stocks and safely handling seafood products. Ultimately through a combination of training, outreach, and teaching opportunities I hope to assist in building fishery/research capacity in these developing countries.