By Chika Izuora, Lagos
Greenpeace, an environmental group has raised the concern that poor government communication and coordination is hurting West Africa’s ability to combat illegal fishing, losing it billions of dollars each year in the process.
The problem has become so severe that it is threatening food security in the region, the environmental group said in a new report. “Fish stocks are not restricted to national boundaries, and that is why the solutions to end the overfishing of West Africa’s water can only come from joint efforts between the countries of the region,” Ahmed Diame, Greenpeace’s Africa Oceans campaigner, said in a statement.
Halting illegal fishing is only possible, Diame said if governments pool resources and work together to standardize legislation and establish joint monitoring centres. Both international and regional vessels are guilty of contravening existing regulations, Greenpeace found during a ten-week surveillance voyage from February to May.
It documented a number of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing practices off the coast of Mauritania, Senegal, Cape Verde, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Sierra Leone. After boarding 37 fishing vessels, the group found evidence of infractions like illegal shark finning, possession of incorrect net mesh sizes, and fishing without licenses or outside of permit areas.
These illegal activities were carried out by vessels with Chinese, Italian, Korean, Comoros, and Senegalese flags. Across the world, illegal fishing is a major problem with far-reaching environmental and socio-economic consequences. The practice threatens the livelihoods of millions of people who rely on healthy fisheries and cheats governments of billions of dollars in revenue.
Unregulated fishing also depletes vulnerable species including sharks, seahorses, reef fish, and spiny lobsters. In West Africa, the problem is even acuter with the fishing industry already facing a heavy burden from officially sanctioned foreign vessels. The region loses an estimated $2.3 billion annually to illegal fishing, according to a recent study by Frontiers in Marine Science