Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana come together with transboundary Marine Protected Area

Fishermen pulling out of the ocean

Fishermen pulling their pirogue out of the ocean in Côte d’Ivoire near the Ghanian border. Photo: Rob Barnes, GRID-Arendal

Addressing entangled issues such as land-based pollution, mineral extraction, fisheries and integrated management of the coastal zone is complicated enough. Now imagine having to do this across borders, jurisdictions and language divides. This is the daunting task that officials in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have set out on.

The first challenge for the two countries is getting the parties around the same table, especially with the COVID-19 travel restrictions still in place. This was overcome by running a full-day meeting online, with live translation, organized as part of the from the International Climate Intiative supported Mami Wata project.

Launched in 2016, one of the project’s main objectives is to support Integrated Ocean Management in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana. The countries analyse the State of their Marine Environments, identify Ecologically or Biologically Significant marine Areas, with the aim of informing Marine Spatial Planning, including the creation of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the Atlantic coast of West Africa.

Big step towards cooperation for conservation of biodiversity

A further objective of the MW project is to support neighboring countries to collaborate on the management of their shared coastal zone. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana’s commitment to creating a transboundary MPA between Assinie (Côte d’Ivoire) and Half Assini (Ghana) is a big step towards cooperation for conservation between those countries, and for the West African region more broadly.

Indeed, this area suffers from pollution, mangrove deforestation, overfishing, as well as uncontrolled urbanization, often occurring within a context of land- and sea-use conflicts. As a result, habitats and biodiversity in general are being damaged, and marine mammals such as manatees, hippopotami, dolphins, and whales are becoming increasingly endangered.

Furthermore, sardinella stocks located off the Cap des Trois Pointes in Côte d’Ivoire migrate to Ghana (as well as Togo and Benin) and are crucial to the fisheries industry in both countries; their sustainable management constitutes a key element in strengthening bilateral cooperation.

Preparing a framework for transboundary cooperation to protect the area and its biodiversity took a series of working meetings organized by the Abidjan Convention Secretariat and GRID-Arendal between October 2017 and November 2019. They culminated in the meeting on July 30th 2020, in which the attending Environment Ministers of the two countries approved the process, and gave the final green light for the creation of the transboundary MPA.

“I would like, as the person in charge of issues related to the protection of the marine and coastal environment in Côte d’Ivoire, to rejoice and to mark my total support to this initiative which corroborates actions already being undertaken at national level to strengthen the conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity” declared Professor Joseph Seka Seka, Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Côte d’Ivoire, during his opening speech.

His Ghanaian counterpart from the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, declared: “We look forward to working together with Côte d’Ivoire on this initiative, in order to ensure we achieve the set of objectives aimed at establishing this transboundary marine protected area”.