The Navy’s top officer in Europe was in Abuja, Nigeria, this week taking part in a three-day conference that included discussions of increasing security and safety in the continent’s waters.

Naval Forces Europe commander Adm. Harry Ulrich and members of his staff met with representatives from 47 nations and 13 international organizations in the Sea Power for Africa symposium.

The symposium enabled African navies to discuss and find solutions to common maritime problems on the continent, according to the Nigerian navy’s Web site.

Ulrich addressed the conference Monday, talking about maritime safety and security as well as the importance of maritime domain awareness, or the idea that the nations should pay close attention to what’s happening off their shores.

“We estimate that billions of dollars are lost each year to illegal fishing alone,” said Lt. Chris Servello, spokesman for Naval Forces Europe.

Additionally, the Gulf of Guinea region, including host-nation Nigeria, is rich in oil and can be targeted by pirates or terrorists.

The Gulf of Guinea region has been a key focus of U.S. naval forces in Europe. For the past two years, the La Maddalena, Italy-based submarine tender USS Emory S. Land has deployed to the region, working with nations along the continent’s western shores.

The region is also key to the U.S. European Command, which has pinned much of its future focus on Africa and Eastern Europe. Non-African nations taking part in the symposium are Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

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