Fishing Over-Exploitation in Africa Could Lead to ‘New Somalia’ (Video)

Over-exploitation of West African fisheries is leading to warnings of piracy and a ‘new Somalia.’

Every day, hundreds of unlicensed fishing vessels enter African waters and trawl for shrimp, sardines, tuna, and mackerel. According to a study commissioned by the UK’s aid agency, such trawlers are costing Africa at least $1 billion every year.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, all west African fishing grounds are fully or over-exploited to the detriment of over 1.5 million local fishermen who cannot compete with them or feed their growing populations.

Fingers are pointing at subsidized EU-registered fleets, breaching European fishing policy whereby trawlers are only supposed to take fish that are surplus to developing country needs.

Since 1990, thousands of small-scale fishermen in Senegal, Morocco, Mauritania and elsewhere have had to give up their small boats, adding to hunger and poverty in many countries that previously depended on fish for protein. Nearly all the fish caught in African waters is re-exported or sold in Europe.

A Greenpeace International report said:

“Millions of Africans depend for their diets on fish caught by local fishermen, but as a consequence of overfishing by the European fleet, stocks are further decreasing. Local fishermen are now forced to fish further out at sea.”

It takes 56 traditional Mauritanian boats one year to catch the volume of fish that an EU vessel can capture and process in a single day.

The EU trawlers are not the only issue; ships flagged to Russia, China, Korea or Belize are also fishing these waters.

Community leaders in Senegal have warned that overfishing by foreign fleets could lead to piracy and violence on the scale of Somalia, as well as a flood of economic migrants leaving west Africa to find work in Europe. Pressure has led to some licenses being revoked but they say it is not enough.

“Senegal’s only resource is the sea. One in five people work in the industry but if you put those people out of work then you can imagine what will happen. Europe is not far away and Senegal could become like Somalia,” Abdou Karim Sall, president of the Fishermen’s Association of Joal and the Committee of Marine Reserves in West Africa told The Guardian.

“People are getting desperate. For sure, in 10 years’ time, we will carry guns. The society here destabilises as the fishing resource is overexploited. As the situation becomes more difficult, so it will become more and more like Somalia,” Sall said.

In the first two months of this year, the International Maritime Organisation has recorded 10 piracy incidents off the coasts of Benin, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria.

In theory, Africa’s fishing waters should be protected under international law. 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.

But African countries’ efforts to stop illegal fishing within those limits are hampered by a lack both of expertise and of the vast resources needed for policing such wide maritime areas. Only a few African countries, such as Namibia and South Africa, have the capacity to patrol their waters sufficiently to keep away illegal vessels.

Watch Greenpeace report on Pirate Fishing in West African waters:

Related stories:

Overfishing: When We’ve Run Out of an Endless Resource

The Bottom Line: Little Fish, Big Fishery

Save Dolphins From Fishing Nets

Picture from Mbour, Senegal, by slosada


Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


"The Earth is not only an environment. "She" is "Us". Her trees are our lungs, and her waterways are our circulatory system. Her cry reflects the cry of our own species as we disrespect, destroy and exploit one another. "We" are the generation that has perpetuated the practices that have created the deterioration of our Holy Mother Earth, and we stand accused. In this song, the voices of our children plead and demand for restoration of the planet. There is only one force that is capable of achieving what they now ask of us..."

QUOTED from the above site

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim5 years ago

This is horrible. Thanks for sharing.

Dana W.
Dana W5 years ago

Terrible, terrible news - I hope some of the larger countries can do something about this.

Julianna D.
Juliana D5 years ago

and the only thing I can do is sign the petition and don't buy/eat fish

John Duqesa
Past Member 5 years ago

I thought Dubya had banned that.

Berny P.
berny p5 years ago

All aid to developing countries should be accompanied by family planning clinics.

John Duqesa
Past Member 5 years ago

Carl N

If they can't afford fast patrol boats, what should they do?

Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen5 years ago

This is why any nation needs a military to exist.

A nation may have a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, but if it has no Navy to enforce it everybody can enter it and harvest whatever they want. And no 3rd party has the right to enforce it - if the lolcals can't or won't police it its the same free for all as outside the exclusive economic zone.

Glenville J O.
Glenville J Owen5 years ago

I find myself in sympathy with comments made by Amie K. and Juliet D. This planet of ours is overpopulated by humans and it is the poor and uneducated amongst us who will and are suffering the consequences of this the most. Recently here in the UK there was a run on fuel when people thought there was going to be a fuel shortage. We now have water shortages in some parts of our country which could affect our food production. Taking our food, or anything else, from parts of the world which causes harm to the people living there isn't the right thing to do. Overpopulation of our planet is causing us all huge problems and needs to be addressed urgently by our politicians.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran5 years ago