Africa’s blue revolution in turbulent waters

From Africa Renewal: 
page 29
Photo: Jonathan Ernst / World Bank
Photo: Jonathan Ernst / World Bank

Africa loses billions of dollars each year to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, according to a 2014 report by the Africa Progress Panel, an advocacy group on sustainable development in Africa led by Kofi Annan, a former United Nations secretary-general. Titled Grain, Fish, Money: Financing Africa’s Green and Blue Revolutions, the report states that Africa’s mismanagement and neglect of the fishery sector result in huge financial losses. Of the $23 billion that the fishing companies in the US make each year, $1.3 billion comes from West Africa, it states.  

The IUU fishing activities could harm Africa’s hope for a blue revolution, an idea to increase the population of fish in water bodies on the continent, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a UN body on food security. 

A number of foreign fleets particularly from the European Union countries, Russia, China, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan and engaged in illegal fishing in Africa. “In Sierra Leone, 252 incidences of illegal fishing by 10 industrial vessels were reported over an 18-month period up to July 2012. In Liberia, over 40 vessels have been investigated for illegal fishing since 2011,” says the report. 

Africa must pay attention to fishery agreements, the report advises. Poorly crafted contracts provide huge benefits to foreign companies while at the same time African countries do not have the capacity to monitor large-scale fishing. 

International mandates such as the FAO-sponsored International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea could help rein in IUU activities. Just by reducing IUU in coastal fisheries, Africa could regain up  to half of its aquaculture, which could enhance food security, create jobs and expand the economy. But loopholes in the mandates and a lack of resources for monitoring may make efforts to curb IUU activities difficult, experts say.  

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the FAO are collaborating to ensure that new agreements are robustly enforced.  The report cites Iceland as an example of  a country that efficiently protects its coasts and monitors its aquaculture and also as an example of how African countries can strengthen policies and begin a blue revolution.