New efforts to introduce sustainable fisheries management and protect valuable marine resources, reveal how West African countries are cracking down on illegal fishing and starting to launch community rights based fisheries.
Intended to extend the economic benefit from fisheries to a wider section of the population in the future, national authorities in Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde already are seeing positive results from tougher protection and various measures adopted under a five year programme to establish sustainable fisheries management systems in a number of important West African marine fishery nations.
West Africa is seriously impacted by illegal fishing with fish worth amounting to US$100 million being taken illegally from territorial waters across the region each year. In addition to illegal fishing, many West African countries lack the necessary fishing port infrastructure to allow industrial scale fishing vessels to land their catch. This situation is holding back the development of fish processing and other downstream activities that would increase the value of fisheries to West African economies.
Backed by soft loans and grant aid worth around US$56 million in total, the West Africa fisheries management programme is being implemented in two phases. To increase its effectiveness, the scheme also is designed to act as a model for sustainable fisheries development in other neighbouring countries. The results already have been dramatic – the fight against illegal fishing being particularly successful in countries suffering the most from illegal fishing activities. Liberia, for example, has reported an 83% reduction in illegal fishing. In addition a number of fraudulent licenses have been discovered by fishery officials, worth more than annual revenues collected from official fishing licenses, the World Bank recently reported, revealing a pattern of fraud that operated in the past.