The European Union must prevent a catastrophic collapse of West African fish stocks | WWF
The European Union must prevent a catastrophic collapse of West African fish stocks

Posted on 28 June 2002

WWF is calling on the European Union to work with West African nations to avert a potentially catastrophic collapse in fish stocks that provide a much-needed source of food and income in countries such as Senegal and Mauritania.
Dakar, Senegal - WWF is calling on the European Union to work with West African nations to avert a potentially catastrophic collapse in fish stocks that provide a much-needed source of food and income in countries such as Senegal and Mauritania.

Today, at a joint press conference of WWF and the Sea Around Us Project (based at the University of British Columbia, Canada) Dr Daniel Pauly, a world authority on global fisheries trends, revealed that West Africa has lost half of its stocks of bottom fishes in the last twenty years.

Claude Martin, Director-General of WWF International called on the European Union to take an international lead in preserving fish stocks off the coast of West Africa.

"Despite a nearly threefold increase in fishing activity, catches of bottom fishes off the coast of Northwest Africa have been stagnating since the mid 1970s around two million tonnes," said Prof. Pauly. "Our results show that overall, the bottom fish biomass off the coast of Northwest Africa has now declined to less than a quarter of its value in 1950 while similar trends are occurring further south along the African coast all the way to Namibia."

Exploitation of West Africa�s fish resources by foreign fleets has increased six fold from the 1960s to 1990s.

The European Union, Russia and Asian countries are the mainly responsible for over-exploiting the fish resources, which ought to be providing food for Africa now and in the future.

According to Prof. Pauly, the fish resources and ecosystems of West Africa are as depleted as those of the North Atlantic.

The expert added that the fisheries are not sustainable and are undermining the development and food security of West African countries.

"A collapse of fish stocks in West Africa could have significantly more serious human consequences than in Europe and North America," said Claude Martin. "The reform of the European Union�s fisheries policy provides an ideal opportunity to reverse its over-exploitation of the fish resources of West Africa."

According to WWF, the European Union needs to make major improvements in its fisheries access agreements, as part of the reform of its fisheries policy later this year.

Even more fundamentally, it needs to tackle the overcapacity of the European fleet which drives an increasing number of its boats into ever more distant fishing grounds.

Other countries such as Russia, China and Japan need to follow that lead, and African governments should be firmer in protecting their valuable fish stocks from over-exploitation.

The WWF/Sea Around Us Project press conference took place at an international symposium in Dakar, Senegal where Dr Pauly and other members of the Sea Around Us Project presented a series of papers showing the extent of the exploitation of West African fish resources.

In addition to promoting sustainable use of marine resources, WWF has established a marine programme based in Dakar and launched a campaign to reduce the negative impact of European fishing fleets on developing countries.

For further information:

Papa Samba Diouf, WWF SUME Project Office, Dakar, tel.: +221 869 37 00, +221 635 24 40 (mobile)

Julian Scola, WWF Fisheries Campaign, tel.: +32 486 117 394

Olivier van Bogaert, WWF International, tel.: +41 22 364 9554