Whether or not you have seen them from the beach, have you heard about these large fishing vessels that overexploit Ivorian fisheries resources? If it is a recurrent phenomenon in West Africa, these marine industrialists (sometimes nicknamed the “pirates of the Gulf of Guinea”) weaken the ecosystem and harm the local economy…
In Côte d’Ivoire, artisanal maritime fishing is an important sub-sector, which provides work for more than eleven thousand fishermen. Every day, about 1,600 pirogues set out into the Atlantic Ocean, braving the waves and currents, in search of sossos, sole, mackerel and other species living near the coast. If the sector seems to be expanding, illicit practices are threatening the sustainability of the activity.
The seabed is not the only one to suffer from the intensification of fishing in Côte d’Ivoire. Artisanal fishermen are the first victims of trawlers, which damage or carry away the nets as they pass. The destruction of their working tools forces them to constantly buy new equipment. This activity does not allow them to live decently anymore. The inhabitants of the coastal villages, whose economy is essentially based on fishing and tourism, become impoverished.
Double punishment for the Ivorian population, since it is an essential element of their diet that tends to disappear. As fish stocks are dwindling, prices are rising. Restaurant professionals are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain supplies. The manager of an establishment in Abidjan said: “I am finding it increasingly difficult to obtain local fish. The situation is worrying. At this rate, we will soon have no fish here at all.”
The country’s food security is now threatened. It is therefore necessary to resort to imports. The situation becomes absurd when fish caught illegally off the coast of Côte d’Ivoire is processed abroad (or directly on factory ships) and finally resold on the Ivorian market. A hotel owner confided to us that he had witnessed the arrival of a factory boat every one to two months near the coast, joined by about fifty trawlers.
According to the Law of the Sea, the State is sovereign in its territorial waters and has the duty to enforce the legislation in force, whether it is economic or environmental. Illegal fishing as described by the FAO should therefore be reprimanded by the State. All the more so as pirate vessels carry out their activities less than two kilometers from the coast.
The Ivorian State is therefore responsible for the activities that take place on its coastline but struggles to play its role correctly in securing the territorial waters and preserving the aquatic fauna and flora. Is the lack of means to effectively monitor the coast the only reason? Is the political will real? Are there personal economic interests that run counter to the general interest of the country?
Without proof, it is difficult at this time to answer these questions or to identify precisely the culprits. In any case, a real policy for the promotion of sustainable fishing accompanied by sufficient means must be put in place at the national, regional and international levels. The stakes are high: the food security of Ivorians, as well as that of the whole of West Africa.
Article written by Germain Fanouillet, Green Project Africa
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