Enviro Monday: Stop Chinese exploitation of West African fisheries

The damage is not just to the fish and the ecosystem, but also to people who depend on them for food and income, particularly in West Africa.

The waters off West Africa were among the most fish rich in the world, until not so long ago.

For centuries these waters were able to supply food and an income for the sub-Saharan countries bordering these waters.

The resources seemed to be inexhaustible, but now fish stocks are dwindling, and fishermen are struggling to make a living.

Fishing rights sold to foreign industrial fleets

Thinking that it would provide more jobs, money and food, African coastal nations have been selling fishing rights to hi-tech, foreign industrial fleets.

These super-efficient factory fishing fleets have done nothing of the kind for these countries. And now, in the almost total absence of monitoring, control, surveillance and management plans, these waters have been over fished.

The foreign fishing fleets made millions of dollars, while Africa’s coastal communities grew poorer.

Chinese ships catch in a week what Senegalese boats catch in a year

A new study published by the journal Frontiers in Marine Science says that most Chinese ships are so large that they scoop up as many fish in a week as Senegalese boats catch in a year, costing West African economies some $2 billion.

With its own waters heavily over fished, the Chinese government commands a fleet of nearly 2,600 vessels.

In the past mechanised fleets from the European Union, Russia and China had nearly picked the oceans off Senegal and other northwest African countries, clean, ruining coastal economies.

It’s still happening, but now China has become the major player.

At least 74 fishing vessels owned and operated by four Chinese Distant Water Fishing companies have been exposed for fishing illegally in prohibited fishing grounds in West Africa, falsifying their gross tonnage and misreporting their coordinates, according to findings from a two-year investigation by Greenpeace East Asia and Greenpeace Africa.

This situation presents nations like Senegal with a difficult choice, because China is also pumping $60 billion into African development.

Hope for the future?

An international treaty known formally as the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which went into effect last year seeks to identify fishing vessels, tracking where they fish and how much fish they are harvesting.

The United States ratified the agreement in 2016 and 44 other countries as well as the European Union have signed it.

China has not yet signed.


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