Late last year, in December, 24 African countries met and unanimously banned Chinese expatriates from trespassing into our coasts and illegally reaping Africa off her fishes. Worse still employing harmful fishing practices that completely pollute the water-body, thus, causes a decline in fish stock and robs the small-scale fishing communities of their means of livelihood-fishing.
In an 8 year period Africa has recorded over 100 cases of illegal fishing in West Africa. Cameroonian Bisso Frederick, bitterly explains the awful conditions that led to the loss of his fishing job alongside others. It is reported that the Chinese fishermen frustrated them by dominating the fishing areas with no form of license from the government to do so. In some African countries, foreigners get the best jobs and the natives take the menial ones; and in this case even oppress them out of the humble jobs and you wonder why people get xenophobic? such is the reason for it.
In 2005, a West African Study by the Sustainable Seafood Development Alliance (SSDA), revealed that about 5.6 million jobs in the region are fisheries-related. So imagine what happens when our fishes and waters are exploited; and when these job opportunities diminish, when there are about 90 million small-scale fish farmers. The report shows the benefits that are threatened by illegal fishing- $711 million export revenue and an average annual export value of $2.7 billion (currently at $24 billion). All these will be Africa’s loss if nothing is done about it.
Africa Renewal posits that:
“A 2005 report commissioned by DfID found that illegal fishing of sardines and mackerel costs Angola about $49 million annually, about 20 per cent of the country’s total income from fish exports. In 2005 alone, war-torn and impoverished Somalia lost an estimated $94 mn of potential revenue through the illegal fishing of shrimp and tuna off its waters. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are losing some $140 million a year, and Mozambique loses about $38 million.”
The economic/Agriculture revolution scheme headed by UN’s Kofi Aanan is a pointer on the potential of the sector and the need to invest in them. In the same urgency, AU has taken up the responsibility to advocate the implementation and improvement of fish farming and aquaculture, in other words, there is a conscious sensitization for Africa to invest in the fish sector.
This recent consensus by these 24 African Countries in Yaounde, Cameroon is a good step but Africans more importantly hope for a stern and reliable enforcement of regulatory policies to check excesses of foreigners and impact protection of the fisheries.