EU Targets Fragile West African Fish Stocks, Despite Protection Laws

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Fishing boats in Senegal. Fabian Plock/Shutterstock

By Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood

Most of the large fishing vessels that operate in West Africa are from distant water fishing nations – such as countries in the European Union (EU) and China and Russia. To get permission to fish in West African waters they form agreements in exchange for a fee that is payable to the government.

But these agreements have been criticised for contributing to the over-exploitation of fish stocks in the region. Specifically affected are, Guinea-Bissau, Côte d′Ivoire, Liberia, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia.

So far, over half of the fisheries resources in waters off West Africa are already over-fished.

In our recent paper, my colleague Dyhia Belhabib and I show that the EU’s agreements with West African countries continue to target fragile fish stocks. This is despite the fact that the EU is bound by policies that are meant to protect fish stocks.

EU activities alone are not to blame for over-fishing in the region. The impact of trawling by other countries, like China, is well-documented. But, through its fisheries policies, the EU has a commitment to sustainable fishing. It also continues to enter into fresh agreements with countries, despite evidence of serious population declines in the species of interest.

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