The EU continues to enter into new agreements with countries, despite evidence of a serious decline in populations of the species concerned, writes Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood, senior lecturer at the University of St Andrews.
Most of the large fishing vessels operating in West Africa from distant-water fishing countries, such as European Union (EU) countries, China and Russia. To obtain authorization to fish in West African waters, they make agreements in exchange for a royalty to be paid to the government.
These agreements have, however, been decried for contributing to the overexploitation of the region's fish stocks. The following are particularly concerned: Guinea-Bissau, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia.
Nowadays, more than half fishery resources off the coast of West Africa are already overexploited.
Dance a recent article, my colleague, Dyhia Belhabib, and I have demonstrated that the EU, under its agreements with West African countries, continues to target vulnerable fish stocks. This is despite the fact that the EU is required to comply with policies aimed at protecting fish stocks.
The EU alone cannot be held responsible for overfishing in the region. The negative impact of trawl fishing practiced by other countries, like china, East well documented. However, in its fisheries policies, the EU is committed to sustainable fishing. It also persists in concluding new agreements with certain countries, despite evidence that populations of the species concerned are seriously declining.
Sea fishing plays a role an important role in the food and economic security of millions of people in West Africa. If stocks are depleted, the small-scale fishermen who depend on them will not be able to earn a decent income and many people will lose their main source of protein. The competition for these depleted resources is already at the origin of conflicts between fishermen and foreign fishing vessels.
Better protection of these natural resources is therefore crucial. We are proposing a way to achieve this, which would be for the countries concerned to renegotiate their naively low fees with the EU. It would also be necessary to invest more in the application of maritime regulations.
What we discovered
The initial objectives of the common fisheries policy of the EU were to preserve fish stocks, protect the marine environment, ensure the economic viability of European fleets and provide consumers with quality food.
Dance our article, we affirm that this policy protects EU waters, but harms the marine environment of third countries, to which its fishing vessels venture.
We also maintain that the subsidies granted under this policy are a key factor in the overexploitation of the fisheries in these third countries. These grants not only encourage, for example, the construction of new vessels capable of going further and remaining operational at sea longer, but also even bear the costs of fuel for activities carried out on a larger scale.
We also highlight that abuses committed by EU vessels undermine local food security and cause conflicts with artisanal fishermen. Indeed, demand from European countries has prompted their vessels to target endangered fish species, such as European anchovy, lippu pelon, sardinella, bigeye tuna, yellowfin and swordfish.
Our study was based on a review of existing literature and policy documents. It includes an analysis of catch data, exchanged between the EU and West African countries with which it has signed fisheries partnership agreements, between 2010 and 2014.
We then compared the EU catches with the situation of certain exploited species, based on extracts from theFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. The categories we have chosen are as follows:
- fully exploited: this means that there is no longer any question of fishing for these species of fish,
- overexploited: this means that too many fish are caught and their number will decrease, and
- depleted: this means that fish stocks are at the lowest level ever.
We found that among the species caught by European vessels:
- over 20% of species caught in Sao Tome and Principe were overexploited and 10% of species caught in Liberia are fully exploited. In Mauritania, we noted that 41% of the species caught are overexploited and 5% are fully exploited, while in Guinea-Bissau, 7% of the species are overexploited and 21% fully exploited.
- In The Gambia, 55% of the species caught are overexploited against and 28% in Cape Verde, and 23% in Côte d'Ivoire.
We have further noticed that the EU applies regulations selectively, when it comes to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The EU gives warnings (yellow) or bans fish trade altogether (red) to countries that do not make their fishing more sustainable. This is where local provisions, like laws and enforcement, are inadequate.
We have unveiled a trend. Yellow cards are issued to countries with which the EU trades extensively, while the ban hits countries with which it has less extensive fishing agreements.
Guinea-Bissau, for example, does not have received warning despite evidence of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Its maritime law enforcement agencies are not sufficiently equipped to monitor the activities of vessels operating in its waters.
We recommend that the EU review the implementation of the provisions of its common fisheries policy, including the conditions for granting the subsidies it grants and which are considered harmful for sustainable fishing. West African countries should also do much more to ensure that future and to be renewed fisheries agreements are negotiated more firmly.
It's possible. Guinea-Bissau, for example, was tough in its negotiations on a new deal with the EU, when the old one expired in 2017. After a year of negotiations, the EU came up with a much better deal than it did. the old one. In return access granted for five years to 50 European fishing vessels, the EU will pay Guinea-Bissau € 15,6 million per year. The rate of the previous agreement was 9,2 million euros.
They were also asked to invest more in effective maritime governance as well as in the effective enforcement of related regulations.
Dyhia Belhabib is Principal Investigator, Fisheries, Ecotrust Canada.