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‘West Africa’s Missing Fish’

New report says ECOWAS States can create 300,000 new jobs by invest in fisheries industry.

A new report from the Overseas Development Institute and porCausa, a Spanish investigative journalism organization says a crack down on illegal fishing by foreign commercial fleets operating in western Africa and investment in the region’s maritime industry could lead to major benefits, including more than 300,000 new jobs.

FM-Fishing-workersThe report titled, ‘Western Africa’s missing fish’, says weak government regulation in the region and poor measures to check illegal and indiscriminate fishing, give foreign fishing fleets freedom to plunder the region’s rich maritime resources.

A Sierra Leonean fisherman interviewed for the report illustrated the scale of the problem. He said had his nets slashed by South Korean trawlers that regularly fish inside the five mile coastal zone reserved for artisanal fishers. However, Sierra Leone only had two coastguard boats to patrol its entire coastline in 2013.

In the report, the authors analyse, for the first time, the activities of commercial fish freezing and processing vessels off the coast of western Africa through the use of detailed satellite and tracking data.

Vessels from across the world – including China, South Korea and Holland – operated there in 2013, with the region’s catch exported globally, including to major European markets in the UK, Spain, and Holland.

The findings illustrate the difficulties of preventing illegally-caught fish entering the supply chain – in part due to the industry practise of ship-to-ship transfers of catches.

  • Among the 35 fish processing vessels known as reefers, operating in the region in 2013, tracking data showed routes consistent with the transfer of catches from fishing vessels to reefers. This included inside the exclusive fishing waters of Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire – countries which have banned this practice.
  • Most of the reefers were flying a ‘flag of convenience’ – a maritime term associated with ship companies registering vessels in countries with less stringent enforcement mechanisms.
  • Some of reefers and companies analysed, had previously been named as suspects in IUU activities.

The report advices regional governments to make concerted effort to build up their fish processing industries and indigenous fishing fleets, instead of selling off fishing rights to foreign operators, as currently happens.

This could create up hundreds of thousands of new jobs, tackle the current high rates of youth unemployment and generate eight times the amount of revenue – some $3.3 billion – as the sale of foreign rights.

It could also help improve the diet and health of the region’s people, as more households consume fish protein normally exported by foreign vessels.



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