Friday, January 27, 2012

The real piracy

The precious marine resources of some of the world's poorest people are being targeted by industrial-scale pirate fishing operations, to feed the seafood hungry markets of Europe and Asia. The problem is particularly acute in West African waters where fish is a vital - and often the only - protein source for millions of people.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world - currently ranked 180th out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index. Its waters contain some of the richest fish stocks in the world and could, if sustainably developed and managed, one day provide the country with much-needed income. Fishing currently represents 10 per cent of Sierra Leone’s GDP and is a crucial component in its food security (contributing 64 per cent of the total animal protein eaten in the country).

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is the term given to any fishing activity that contravenes national or international laws - a simpler description would be to call it fishing piracy. The pirate fishing activities of foreign trawlers are stripping these fishing grounds so quickly that unless the practice is stopped there will soon be nothing left to develop. And most important of all, local people will be deprived of a crucial food source - just to satisfy the appetites of seafood lovers in Europe and Asia. Pirate fishermen would not be able to operate without a market for their catch.

Over 80 per cent of fish stocks are over-exploited, fully-exploited or depleted according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) most recent assessments. Scientists have estimated that, at current levels of exploitation, most commercial fish stocks could have collapsed by the year 2048.

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