DAKAR, Senegal, May 4, 2017/ -- 11 arrests of vessels fishing illegally have occurred in just three weeks of joint surveillance with local authorities in West African waters. This is out of 13 fishing regulation infractions identified during the two month ‘Hope in West Africa’ ship tour, which also included fisheries monitoring and civil society and political engagement in a total of six countries.The results of Greenpeace’s (www.Greenpeace.org/Africa/en) ship tour, which ends this weekend in Dakar have been compiled in a preliminary report released today. The findings are symptomatic of West African fisheries’ desperate need for effective regulations at a regional level.
In total, Greenpeace and inspectors from Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Senegal boarded and inspected 37 industrial fishing vessels in the region. In Mauritania Greenpeace conducted its own monitoring and presented the findings to the Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Nani Chrougha. The 13 infractions included shark finning, incorrect net mesh sizes, transshipment at sea, lack of documentation and fishing outside of permits. The infractions were committed by fishing vessels with Chinese, Italian, Korean, Comoros and Senegalese flags.
Pavel Klinckhamers, Hope in West Africa project leader, said: “After two months at sea documenting and inspecting industrial fishing vessels in the waters of West Africa, it is clear that illegal fishing is worryingly common. We also found an eagerness among local fishermen, civil society and governments across the region to address the situation and move towards a sustainable fisheries system. The next step is for these stakeholders to show real commitment in working together towards that goal. We look forward to supporting that process.”
Without decision making powers current managing bodies for the seas, from Cabo Verde to Sierra Leone, including the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC) and the Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF), can only perform insufficient advisory roles. A lack of transparency on fisheries policies and practices also blights the region. Fisheries authorities’ vessel lists are often incomplete or inaccurate, and the numbers and details of joint venture companies and fisheries access agreements in the region remains opaque.
Ahmed Diame, Greenpeace Africa Oceans campaigner, said: “With West African fish stocks already in freefall, governments must act right now to ensure food security is no longer threatened by overfishing and illegal fishing. Fish stocks are not restricted to national boundaries, and that is why the solutions to end the overfishing of West Africa’s waters can only come from joint efforts between the countries of this region. Governments must work together to set up and implement an effective regional fisheries management system to safeguard these precious resources now and for generations to come.”
Greenpeace is handing its report to government representatives from Cape Verde, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal with strong recommendations as to how West African governments can live up to their responsibility and jointly manage both foreign and local fishing activities in order to safeguard their waters and ensure a fair and sustainable distribution of resources at sea. In the coming months, Greenpeace will also share its findings concerning the poor working conditions on board many foreign fishing vessels, where drinking water is often in scarce supply and many local crew are left to sleep, eat and wash outside.
Greenpeace is advising that an effective regional fisheries management body be established and national fisheries policies harmonised. Transparency, including bilateral fisheries agreements, the sharing of resources to optimise Vessel Monitoring Systems for tracking fishing vessels, and the setting up of a black list of IUU vessels and non-cooperating captains in the region must be adopted by all countries. There is an urgent need to establish a committee to monitor stock assessment and catches to bring fisheries capacity in balance with available resources. In addition, the voices of local fishing communities, those hit hardest by industrial fishing in the region, must be made central to the planning and implementation of fisheries management. With West African fish stocks plummeting, the need for such a system is urgent.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.