Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fished Out

The 2005 British Marine Resources Assessment Group, provided a conservative estimate that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Africa could be valued at approximately US$1 billion every year.
It was estimated that in Somalia the total annual value of illegal fishing in only the tuna and shrimp industries amounted to $94 million. In Angola illegal fishing was measured in the sardine and mackerel fisheries to be roughly $49 million annually, which equates to 21 percent of the total value of Angolan fish exports. In Mozambique, illegal fishing in the tuna and shrimp industry was set at approximately $38 million. In South Africa, for example, over a two-year period in the early 2000s some 320,000 tonnes of Patagonian Toothfish were harvested, whilst the annual Total Allowable Catch was set by the government at only 450 tonnes. Taiwan illegally entered Tanzania's Exclusive Economic Zone and took approximately $20 million worth of tuna.

The problem did not stem largely from rogue fishing companies who evade laws and break regulations with impunity, but "vested interests" that allowed this situation to occur, and that these vested interests span not only foreign governments and inter-governmental organisations, but also African elected leaders and public officials according to Andre Standing, author of a new Institute for Security Studies study . The overfishing and some forms of illegal fishing flourish due to corruption and expediency by those in public office or government .

Fish is a critical source of animal protein in poor countries; globally it provides more than 2.6 billion people with at least one-fifth of their average per capita animal protein intake. Fish accounts for 20 percent of animal-derived protein in Low-Income Food Deficit countries, compared to 13 percent in industrialised countries .

Exploitation of West Africa's fish resources by European Union , Russian and Asian fleets "increased sixfold" between the 1960s and 1990s, a United Nations report noted. "Much of the catch is exported or shipped directly to Europe, and compensation for access is often low compared to the value of the landed fish." Fisheries access agreements, which allow foreign vessels into local fishing grounds, adversely affect fish stocks, reduce domestic artisanal catches, and affect the food security and well-being of coastal West African communities. Many of these agreements came into effect after the countries were pressured to liberalise trade. It has had a negative impact on food consumption , poverty reduction and a long-term impact on livelihoods that has forced local fishers from coastal West Africa to migrate . Senegalese fishers emigrating to Spain claim the reason for leaving their homes is the lack of their traditional fisheries livelihood . Increased exports have lead to a lack of fish in local markets, particularly high-value fish, which has affected prices and led to the substitution of fish for poultry, which was now cheaper than fish. Traditional fish species were being replaced by new types of lower value species.

It would benefit marine ecosystems if our intervention in the seas was reduced, allowing species time to repopulate. With a transfer of emphasis away from marine fishing to fish farming, fish yields could potentially be maintained at sufficiently high levels. The mentality encouraged by capitalism is to strive for profits at the expense of long-term consequences. The warnings raised by the environmentalists and scientists are muffled by the demands of economic exploitation. Following a socialist revolution, the wealth of knowledge and skills held by those who work in the fisheries could be applied to a conservation-based use of sea marine resources. The expertise and technology provided could be acted on, without the constraints of the market.

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