Several Cameroonian and West African fisheries are undergoing a fish stock reduction. (Photo: Stock File/FIS)
Fish stocks' impending extinction due to overfishing
Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
Environmentalists have been issuing warnings about dwindling stocks in the West Africa Marine Ecoregion spanning from Mauritania to Guinea as well as in Cameroon due to foreign overfishing.
Research shows that six deep-water large fish species, including carp and hake, are gradually approaching extinction, which spells trouble for the estimated 600,000 Senegalese who depend on these fisheries for their livelihood.
In Cameroon, 15,000 sqkm of continental shelf and 4 million ha of inland waters are yielding just 157,000 tonnes of fish per year, while demand is around 300,000 tonnes. Fish imports jumped to nearly 200,000 tonnes in 2011, up from 150,000 tonnes in 2010, and are expected to rise even higher this year.
The Citizens’ Association for the Defence of Collective Interests (ACDIC) blames malpractice by foreign trawlers, especially Chinese-flagged vessels, Think Africa Press reports.
“They are still doing twin-trawling despite several government warnings, and are using small-mesh nets to fish even in off-limits waters reserved for local artisanal fishermen. And worse still, they dump the smaller fish in Cameroon and take the bigger ones to Europe,” claims Albert Njonga, chair of ACDIC.
Desperate artisanal fishers and traders now use chemicals, including pesticides, to kill fish and then scoop them out of the waters.
In Senegal, industrial and artisanal fishing have become stagnant due to overexploitation and a dramatic rise in destructive fishing techniques such as dynamite and twin-trawling.
According to researchers at the Oceanographic Research Centre in Dakar, this is being exacerbated by disregard for scientific recommendations by the government, weak enforcement of regulations and the granting of licenses to foreign trawlers.
“We are currently observing a rapid depletion of stocks for some species,” explained Anis Diallo, data manager at the centre. “But the decision-makers keep dragging their feet. There’s a lack of political will to implement our recommendations including a complete fishing ban on threatened species and an extension of biological repose to enable regeneration of stocks.”
Officials of the Regional Commission for Fishing in the Gulf of Guinea (COREP) recently warned that the current stock depletion rate is leading West Africa to the verge of food insecurity, instability and the eradication of income for millions.
Sloans Chimatiro, senior fisheries advisor at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a COREP partner, recommended closely monitoring the activities of foreign vessels, possibly with the use of satellites and high-speed patrol boats to check undeclared fishing; severe punishment of corruption by law enforcement officials; the establishment of large marine reserves; and reconsidering European Union (EU) subsidies.
Experts say unwavering political will is necessary for such recommendations to be executed. There are concerns that, even if enacted, regulations would be ignored unless strong measures were introduced to ensure authorities enforced new rules, and that government may be afraid to challenge the status quo.
“The sector has wide-ranging socioeconomic connotations” said Hamet Diadhiou, chief of the Dakar Oceanographic Research Centre. “The government dreads upheavals from fishers if bans are imposed and that’s why our recommendations are stuck in the drawers.”
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By Natalia Real