Mauritania's depleted seas highlight need for fishing transparency

Mon Feb 1, 2016 8:31am GMT

By Katie Nguyen

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mauritania has some of West Africa's richest fishing waters yet overfishing by foreign trawlers means that hundreds of pirogues, or wooden canoes used by small-scale fishermen, must go further out to sea to net ever smaller catches.

Fishing is an important part of the mostly desert country's economy, accounting for 7 percent of gross domestic product and providing about 40,000 jobs, according to the World Bank.

Last week, Mauritania's minister for economic affairs, Sid'Ahmed Raïss, warned that as West Africa's chronic food insecurity forces more people to try their hand at fishing, "overfishing by foreign boats is threatening our way of life".

"Other countries in the Sahel show us, for example, how poverty and unemployment make fertile ground for organised crime and terror. Take fisheries away from our people, and they will have little else to lose," he said in a statement.

More people could benefit from fisheries in Mauritania and elsewhere if there was better governance of the sector with greater transparency over licences and concessions agreements, the founder of Transparency International said in an interview.

"The benefits of good governance would be tremendous if the illegal and unreported fisheries were reduced. Many countries could have millions and millions of tonnes of fish or (millions of dollars in) revenues at their disposal," Peter Eigen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Berlin.

West Africa alone loses at least $1.3 billion a year from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, according to a 2014 report by the Africa Progress Panel, which campaigns for sustainable development in Africa.

Widespread corruption and few resources for enforcement mean huge foreign trawlers often venture into areas near the coast which are reserved for artisanal fishermen.   Continued...

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