Africa’s fishing resources are being “opportunistically” exploited by European, Chinese and other European fleets that take advantage of the poor management of African waters, according to a Greenpeace activist.
“The problems we have in West Africa are not only due to the Chinese. Unfortunately, the media tend to focus on these, but what is happening is that Africa is a puzzle with several different actors in which each one wants to take “said Ibrahima Cissé, director of the oceans campaign at Greenpeace Africa.
West Africa is one of the richest regions in the world in terms of biomass and biodiversity. For example, the 1.5 million km of sea area in Mauritania, the Gambia, Senegal, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Guinea-Conakry and Sierra Leone (which make up the Subregional Fisheries Commission) account for about one-fifth of the total world catches.
But the lack of a fishery management body compromises the environmental and economic sustainability of fisheries in this area, subject to enormous pressure from foreign industrial fleets.
“It is a very wide area and with few means to ensure the surveillance,” lamented the marine biologist.
According to Ibrahima Cissé, the Chinese fleets adopt “wrong practices” of illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing, but so do other European countries in an approach that has been classified as “opportunistic” and has been denounced several times by Greenpeace.
“They take advantage of the weaknesses of fisheries management systems in Africa to supply their markets and act as if it were ‘no man’s land,‘” he criticizes.
The study “Euro vs. Yuan: Comparing European and Chinese Fishing Access in West Africa” (Euros vs Yuans: Comparing European and Chinese access to fisheries in West Africa), from the Sea Around Us project, confirms this analysis.
“Our study shows that the European Union (EU) and China have similar performances in terms of illegal fishing, patterns of exploitation and sustainability of resource use, while the EU’s under-reporting [of fish] increases and that of China declined, “conclude the seven scientists who signed the document, published in 2015.
According to the researchers’ estimates, the EU (1.6 million tonnes/year) and China (2.3 million tonnes/year) reported only 29% and 8%, respectively of their total catches (including rejects) in the countries of West Africa between 2000 and 2010.
There are currently 14 EU fisheries agreements in third countries: 10 for tuna (Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Madagascar, Senegal, Liberia, Seychelles, Cook Islands and Mauritius) and four for mixed stocks (Mauritania, Morocco, Greenland and Guinea-Bissau).
The EU also has agreements, which have now expired, with Mozambique, Gabon, Madagascar, Equatorial Guinea, Micronesia and the Solomon Islands, some of which are currently being renegotiated.
“The European agreements, in theory, provide room for improved scientific research, monitoring and surveillance, suggesting a better performance than the agreements with China, but the end use of European funding is more difficult and sometimes impossible to gauge, “says the study.
European catches have been declining, while the Chinese fleet is fishing more and more, but still far from reaching European fisheries records (3 million tonnes/year on average between 1970 and 1980).
The consequences are reflected in the environment, in the economy and in the abandonment of activity, leading to an increase in immigration and social tensions.
There is no fish, there is no work, sums up the Senegalese activist, alluding to local fishing communities that are deprived of means of economic subsistence and a source of cheap protein.
Ibrahima Cissé adds that in Africa, people come little more than “beautiful words” coming from Europe.
“People hear words like transparency and equality, but in practice, they do not see that happen,” adding value to the Chinese currency.
“The Chinese do not talk about transparency, but they build infrastructures, a bridge in a remote place that was isolated, a port,” he exemplifies.
That is why Ibrahima Cissé believes that giving the Chinese the role of villains is more convenient for their European competitors.
“Now there is competition [between Europeans and Chinese] for the same resources, in the background to see who exploits Africa better,” he says, arguing that the responsibility of European leaders is to support countries in building partnerships that help promote proper resource management.
“This will only happen with harmonized legislation, a maritime surveillance system, payment of identical fees, stock-sharing agreements between countries, where we will have more assurances that foreign fleets do not benefit from illegal activity in West Africa. that people expect from the European Union, that’s why things have to change, “he urges.