Diamonds, gold, bauxite, iron ore, rutile, etc, are all wasting mineral resources that have benefitted very little African countries endowed with them. Overexploited, their supply will one day dry up. But the country’s vast marine resources which can be replenished and are renewable when carefully controlled, managed and harvested do not have the same fate.
Fisheries stocks in West Africa remain uncontrolled to the detriment of the people and state earnings. Studies over the decades show that coastline countries like Sierra Leone with extensive fishing grounds can actually earn more local and foreign cash from proper utilization of their sea resources.
Disappointingly, in its most recent report presented on March 13, 2017 after ten days of research on fishing practices along the West African coast to the Mauritania Ministers of Fisheries and Maritime Economy; Environment and Sustainable Development; and Equipment and Transport, Greenpeace notes that West African countries are still lax in exercising proper control and management of this valuable economic resource.
After witnessing several control irregularities, the Greenpeace report in its findings calls for a powerful and effective regional fisheries management body in the region. Greenpeace Project Leader, Pavel Klinckhamer who was onboard the Esperanza said, “The Wild West situation in West African waters is alarming and reconfirms the need for urgent action”.
According to him, “From what they saw at sea, fishing capacity is still a big issue, and there is a huge lack of knowledge about how much fish is available. The only way to stop this ruthless over-exploitation is for the governments to take the responsibility and start cooperating around managing their resources wisely.”
FAO earmarked the West African waters six years ago as having the highest rate of overfishing. More than half of the fish stocks in the region FAO said are being over-exploited, warning that if this is allowed to continue, food security for millions of African people is at stake.
The fisheries problem is not only limited to huge loss of income by the people and governments, it extends to endangering of many coastal livelihoods threatened by the operations of large foreign owned trawlers that do not report and land their catches.
Greenpeace recommends that to stop this overexploitation, West African governments must agree on enforcing binding rules, including an equitable and sustainable allocation of access to fish stocks that takes into account the interest of local communities and the environment.
Also, West African governments must ensure that rules are obeyed by all operators. That is the only way to really make sure that fish are caught sustainably with no harm done to the marine environment.