There is increasing recognition of the importance of fisheries to development and the need to conserve marine resources, build resilience and improve the livelihoods of coastal communities.
The State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) 2022, with the theme ‘Towards Blue Transformation,’ put the value of international trade of fisheries and aquaculture products at $151 billion and the total employed in the primary sector of fisheries and aquaculture at 58.5million, with 21 per cent women.
It, however, notes that the sustainability of marine fishery resources remains a significant concern, with the sustainably fished stocks falling to 64.6 per cent in 2019, a 1.2 per cent decline from 2017.
The United Nations Environment Programme UNEP speaks to the overexploitation and overfishing of global marine fish stocks and the need for a sound regulatory framework and vigorous enforcement for wild capture fisheries.
“The status of marine biodiversity is closely connected to ocean pollution and acidification. About two-thirds of the world’s oceans showed signs of increased human impacts between 2008 and 2013. Goal 14 recognises these broad challenges and seeks conservation and sustainable use of oceans.”
With a Blue Transformation Roadmap 2022 to 2030, the Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO targets elements that would maximise the contribution of aquatic food systems to sustainable development goals.
“The Blue Transformation Roadmap recognises the importance of aquatic food systems as drivers of employment, economic growth, social development and economic recovery, which all underpin the SDGs,” says FAO.
“It also recognises the need to support the 2030 Agenda through transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable aquatic food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind.”
AFRICAN BLUE ECONOMY
The African Union’s Agenda 2063 acknowledges the critical role ocean plays as a catalyst for socioeconomic transformation, noting the blue economy as ‘Africa’s Future.’
According to the African Development Bank Group, Africa’s marine capture fisheries production currently stands at 7 million tonnes.
“It has increased in recent years thanks to the strong resurgence of West Africa small pelagic catches and a return to normality in the Indian Ocean following the end of Somalian piracy, ” it explains.
“The marine fish supply is increasing, but the current growth is at a rate that cannot match the increasing population per capita consumption demand.”
AFDB points out, “with the African population expected to reach 1.7 billion in 2030 and 2.5 billion in 2050, feeding the population at today’s level of per capita consumption (7.5kg/capita/year from marine fisheries) will require 13 million tonnes of marine fish in 2030 and almost 19million tonnes in 2050.
It adds that much change is required in both ecosystem capacity enhancement and capture and valorisation method improvement to reach the targets.
“Fisheries policies, institutional structures and the skills base of fisheries agencies in many African countries have been heavily influenced by a historical focus on production and revenue maximisation year after year, driven by the need to generate cash for the national treasury with little or no reference to resource productivity and sustainability. The approach had led to overexploitation of most of the major fish resources.”
ADVANCING REGIONAL COOPERATION
The Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) recently held its 14th session of the Conference of Ministers with a call on Member States to prioritise effective fisheries management.
FCWC was established in 2007 to facilitate cooperation in fisheries management among the member countries, including Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo.
“Let us prioritise strong and courageous initiatives and implement policies that would protect the vulnerability of the coastal economy and promote national development,” urges Mr Toure Sidi Tiemoko, Chairperson 14th Conference of Ministers. It had the theme ‘Supporting effective fisheries management for a sustainable blue economy.’
“It is an appeal to all to have a diligent reflection on management and protection of the coastal economy and fishing value chain.”
Mr Tiemoko, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries Cote d’Ivoire, notes that 7 million actors in the industry contributed 18 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product GDP and helped generate 25 and 30 per cent of revenue from exports of the industry products.
Ghanaian Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Mrs Mavis Hawa Koomson, underlines the contributions of the fisheries sector to the GDP, employment, foreign exchange, earnings, food and nutritional security.
“Artisanal fishery is small in scale but big in value, and truly they are the backbone of our respective fishing industry.”
She, however, identifies challenges such as illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing practices, pollution of seas and oceans and destruction of marine habitats.
The minister urges the development of regional management plans, joint research programmes and common position at international meetings to tackle the challenges.
“Let’s ensure that our seas and oceans are protected. Let us recognise the impact of marine pollution from plastic waste on our fisheries resources and start thinking about a regional approach to handle the matter, for the plastic waste could be carried by currents from one country to the other.”
According to the FCWC Secretary General, Mr Seraphin Dedi Nadje the meeting provided the opportunity for the six Member States to commit to harmonising policy and joint actions to address depleting fisheries stocks and develop aquaculture in the region under ECOWAS’s integrated fisheries and aquaculture development strategy.
He notes the countries have several shared fish stocks, thus the need for cooperation and shared management of these resources.
“FCWC is actively working towards contributing to ocean economy development and the achievement of the UN SDGs by countries of this region,” he states
“The organisation as a regional advisory body prioritises effective fisheries management, the improved implementation of fisheries policy and management plans (including determining the feasibility of a regional closed season) to rebuild the fisheries stock, sustain the economy and enhance the food security of the region.”