Key African export commodity at risk as fish stocks drop

2010-09-24 07:26

Banjul – Africa’s dwindling fish stocks as a result of over-exploitation and illegal fishing may hinder efforts to develop an industry that employs some 10 million Africans, a conference in Banjul, Gambia heard yesterday.

Gambian Fisheries Minister Lamin Kaba Bajo opened a meeting of his counterparts from across the continent on Wednesday on the fourth day of a conference looking at ways to sustainably grow Africa’s fisheries sector.

He said despite fish being Africa’s leading export commodity, “the benefits are still at risk as the exploitation of natural fish stocks are reaching their catch limits”.

Addressing the meeting, Food and Agricultural Organisation representative Babagana Ahmadu said the fact that 10 million Africans earn a living from the fishing industry proved its importance to economies.

“The per capita fish supplies against increasing demands are dropping, and the increase in illegal marine fisheries by foreign ships is on the increase, threatening the livelihood of millions in Africa,” he said.

“Unless we devise ways and strategies to tackle these problems, the continent will continue to lose billions of dollars.

He said while fishing could potentially contribute about 6% of the continent’s annual economic growth, “Africa yet has a low capacity to deal with this challenge because of a shortage of ... technology, skills, economic resources ...”

Maxwell Davies from the FAO told AFP on the sidelines of the conference that the continent’s fisheries sector was key “to meeting the food and nutrition security needs of millions of Africans”.

He said the fisheries industry had an annual export value of $2.7 billion.

Abdoulie Cham, principal fisheries adviser at Gambia’s fisheries ministry said the continent’s fish production was estimated at $4.3 billion, providing 8% of the global fisheries trade.

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