The effects of overfishing in Africa

As many of us have heard, we are dangerously overfishing our oceans. What we normally don’t hear much of is how overfishing is affecting countries in Africa. “A vast flotilla of industrial trawlers from the European Union, China, Russia and elsewhere, together with an abundance of local boats, have so thoroughly scoured northwest Africa’s ocean floor that major fish populations are collapsing” (NY Times).

Illegal fishing is a huge problem in many African countries. “In 1982 the International Law of the Sea set a 200-mile zone off the shores of coastal states within which fishing and other natural resource exploitation cannot take place without a license” (African Recovery). Unfortunately, African countries lack the resources and equipment necessary to monitor or prevent illegal fishing from occurring. Although some countries in Africa have made bargains and contracts with other countries like the EU, they are usually weaker countries negotiating with more powerful ones and the odds are not in the African countries’ favor (African Recovery).

One affect that African countries are seeing from overfishing is an increase in the bush meat trade. Bush meat is wild animals killed for meat which includes lions, hippopotamus, monkeys, etc. According to the National Geographic, “smaller, open-ocean species are particularly important sources of protein for poorer communities, as they can be dried and transported to remote inland regions”. With less and less fish available, the easiest and cheapest solution is turning to wild game for protein, which is even less sustainable (National Geographic). Most of these studies were conducted in Ghana or Guinea-Bissau.

With the decline of the fisheries in African countries many fishermen have to turn to other jobs. Many try to move to a different country to seek out a better fishery. Most of the time the migration is attempted illegally since the fishermen have no money to make the move. “While reasons for immigration are as varied as fish species, Europe’s lure has clearly intensified as northwest Africa’s fish population has dwindled” (NY Times).

Several solutions exist to curb overfishing and its effects. One is linking up funds and coast guards to survey and protect African waters. Another is turning to other sources of protein such as cattle. Others include drafting better contracts between countries to prevent over-exploitation of African waters. Lastly, more research could be done to see more of the scope of the problem and its negative effects.

-Marta Hura

Resources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/14/world/africa/14fishing.html?pagewanted=all

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/11/1111_041111_bushmeat_fishing_2.html

http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/vol23no2/232-safeguarding-african-fisheries.html

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