1st February 2007
Overfishing along West Africa’s coast is endangering fish stocks and livelihoods, but local fishermen are not to blame.
‘The dramatic decrease in fish off our coasts now really worries us,’ Aisha says solemnly. ‘Because of overfishing, fishing has become a precarious profession. A future with no fish left is fast becoming a reality.’ She is sitting on the beach of Joal, Senegal, among vibrant, primary-coloured pirogues (traditional boats made from carved-out tree trunks), waiting for the fishermen to return with their day’s catch. A battered pair of scales rests by her side; she will buy some of the fresh fish and then sell it in local markets.
Along West Africa’s coast – covering the countries of Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde – fishing is the main activity, this being one of the world’s most productive fishing areas. But the individual governments of these countries do not have the resources to effectively monitor the waters, so foreign fishing fleets – many of them illegal – are plundering the fish stocks at an alarming rate.
These coastal waters are among the world’s richest fishing grounds and support great biodiversity, because winds push the surface water away from the coast and draw up cold,...
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