In 1997, conservation stakeholders in West Africa expressed for the first time the need to work together at the regional level. As a response, a regional coastal planning network (RESOCOTAO) was put in place with the objective of creating the conditions for a better management of the littoral and its natural resources. To this end, priority areas were identified, including shark fisheries and the extinction of species such as sawfishes, the gradual degradation of mangroves, and the much-needed interconnection between MPAs.

In 2003, this initiative was brought to fruition with the creation of a Regional Coastal and Marine Conservation Programme for West Africa (PRCM) which, with support from many partners, was able to unite a number of initiatives from Mauritania to Sierra Leone through the islands of Cape Verde.

Following a decade of efforts devoted to capacity building and the structuring of its member organisations, PRCM decided to evolve from a programme into a partnership platform. The idea is to better cope with current challenges that call for an inclusive coalition within which the expertise of each actor is recognised, valued, catalysed and pooled to create the leverage required for good environmental governance.

Prior to the creation of the PRCM, efforts to preserve the coastal zone of West Africa amounted to a few Marine Protected Areas and a handful scattered projects. Designed as a network of experts to remedy the lack of coordination, RESOCOTAO organised a workshop on “Conservation Priorities for the West African Coastal Zone”. Participants in this workshop surprisingly realised how similar were the priorities presented by the representatives of the various countries, especially with regard to the creation of MPAs, sustainable management of fisheries as well as conservation of biodiversity and mangroves. This is how the principle of collaboration among international conservation organisations was agreed upon, and later materialised through the signing of a memorandum of understanding and partnership between the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Banc d’Arguin International Foundation (FIBA) and Wetlands International (WI), and subsequently the Sub-regional Fishery Commission (CSRP).