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West Africa Fishermen call for a crack down on illegal fishing

West Africa Fishermen call for a crack down on illegal fishing

Togo and some other West Africa countries, are recognised as part of the world’s richest fisheries grounds,teeming with snapper, sardines, mackerel and shrimps.

For many communities living along the sea line, fishing has been a way of life for centuries, but illegal fishing in recent years has decimated stocks forcing many to travel out to sea to catch enough to make a living.

Authorities and fishermen in the region point fingers on foreign vessels, which typically catch fish in off-limits waters and launder their catches by offloading it onto refrigerated vessels, called reefers, at sea.

The problem of fisheries in Ghana is a crisis situation. The industry is over capitalised, there are too many fishermen chasing too few fish.

“We used to get a lot of fish, but the sound of motors from the big vessels have chased away the fish,” said one Togolese fisherman, Benoit Kodjo.

According to West African authorities, up to $1.5 billion worth of fish are taken by ships fishing illegally each year in West Africa.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said at least seven million people work in fishing and fish farming across West and Central Africa.

Fishermen complained that Foreign vessels often illegally approach the coast, damage the seabed and destroy the locals’ fishing gear, putting the livelihood of many at risk

“The problem of fisheries in Ghana is a crisis situation. The industry is over capitalised, there are too many fishermen chasing too few fish. We have long gone past our maximum sustainable yields, and at this time, because there are too many people in the industry,” said fishmonger Afi Akakpo.

Although governments in the region have introduced several initiatives to curb illegal fishing; such as marine patrols, improved satellite technology for monitoring the waters, but challenges remain.

Analysts said if challenges in the sector are addressed, it would create jobs, boost revenue and incentives for young people to stay in the region.