Reform is needed in African Fisheries

By Brenda Zulu

Reform is needed urgently to reverse the current trend of decline and waste that characterises African fisheries, and to enable these to contribute sustainably to economic growth, food security, nutrition, and healthy ecosystems.

Presenting at the Conference of African Ministers of fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA), Dr Steve Donado said achieving effective reform requires tackling the political, institutional and economic constraints to more effective fisheries governance and trade.

He explained that currently fisheries resources provide significant benefits to Africa, which include livelihoods to about 10 million people, nutrition and food security to over 30% of the population, and $4.3 billion per year of revenues from international trade.

“The Wealth Generation Opportunities of African Fish Resources paper indicated that to realise the massive potential in the African fisheries, the real challenge for the Fisheries Managers is therefore, to create an enabling environment that provides fishers with incentives and confidence to invest in the fish resource itself. This requires Policy and Governance reform,” said Donda.

He added that the Fisheries policy needs to take resource wealth into consideration in order to secure current benefits and to enhance fisheries contribution to economic growth and social welfare.

There is also need to establish an agreed vision for fisheries in Africa. “The visioning exercise will help set the scene for the subsequent construction and delivery of policy and success indicators,” he said.

He pointed out that a good governance framework was required for the delivery of the strategy, given that many fisheries were potentially extremely valuable assets.

Donda added that the fundamental principles of good governance  were accountability, transparency and participation  which should underpin policy development

“A stakeholder-based fishery management planning process provides an effective mechanism to put these key principles of good governance in practice,” he said.

He pointed out that the evidence from international best practice suggests that the key issues are defining fisheries management units (FMUs) in an appropriate way, Participatory diagnosis of the current economic and ecological performance in each FMU, Participatory analysis of the wealth potential using bio economic modelling to enhance transparency and legitimacy, Policy and governance reform offers the opportunity for significant change in the way Africa’s fish resources are exploited.

In terms of benefits, Dondo said the headline benefit will be the generation of resource wealth and the use of this wealth to the benefit of Africans.

Such reform will also contribute to delivering other desirable outcomes including the reduction and gradual elimination of wasteful and destructive overcapacity, a progressive recovery of fish stocks, and an improvement in the quality of fish on the market

Policy and governance reform offers the opportunity for significant change in the way Africa’s fish resources are exploited.

Resource-wealth benefits can be achieved without the sacrifice of other benefits. Economically-efficient fisheries will still produce fish as food, arguably more sustainably, of better quality and of greater value.

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National Governments appreciate the Fisheries potential-AU

By Brenda Zulu in Banjul, Gambia

The African Union (AU) has called on National Governments to take steps to understand and appreciate the fisheries potential and prioritize it in their national plans and budgets.

Speaking at the opening the Conference of African Ministers for Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA), at the Sheraton Hotel in Banjul, Elizabeth Tankeu, Commissioner for Trade and Industry African Union Commission said  there was need for strategic dissemination of Lessons learned from the success stories and best practices of the countries that have turned fisheries into wealth.

“Africa duly tap its fisheries potential and significantly contribute towards improvement of nutrition, as well as elimination of hunger and poverty,” said Tankeu.

She reiterated the AU’s commitment to ensure that the fisheries sector in Africa receives the attention it deserves for its own growth and its contribution to socio-economic development.

This includes the commitment to develop the fisheries that is demonstrated through various initiatives that have taken place in the last five years starting in 2004, during the extra-ordinary Summit, which was held in Sirte, Libya.

During the said Summit, a decision was taken by the African Heads of State and Government to promote the development and protection of fishery resources in Africa.

The AU Assembly being the highest policy decision organ of the African Union, the directive facilitated fisheries to move from the periphery and obscurity in the Agriculture sector and began receiving prominence in the African Union Commission planning.

Tankeu added that Fisheries were now completely entrenched into the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture strategic plan and also the Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) as well as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA).

“In April this year, the African Ministers responsible for maritime security endorsed Africa’s Integrated Maritime Time Security Strategy (AIMS). For the first time, illegal fishing activities were recognized as one of the major challenges to the overall maritime safety and security,” said Tenkeu.

This Ministerial Conference has been convened in an effort to prioritize fisheries issues in the African Union’s Member States and also to ensure the Ministers responsible for fisheries renew their commitment to expediting fisheries development.

The African Union’s Commission pledged to provide the political leadership and guidance to CAMFA whose theme is “African Fisheries and aquaculture: Contributing towards Agricultural Development and Economic Growth.”

“The challenge of fisheries reform in Africa is well recognized by the new Partnership for African Fisheries (PAF) programme and the importance of good governance is a core element, which will be the focus of this sub-theme of the African Ministers of Fisheries Conference,” said Tankeu.

Meanwhile, Hosea Gonza Mbilinyi, Director of Fisheries Development Division in the United Republic of Tanzania agreed with the sentiments by the AU adding that fisheries were not given the adequate attention as an economic sector and that it was given merge budgetary allocations.

Mbilinyi further proposed that AU member states should consider establishing Ministries of Fisheries as stand alone so that they would be given adequate both budgetary and sectoral attention.

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The Gambian President Demands for Fair Fishing Agreements

By Denis Jjuuko in Banjul, The Gambia

The president of The Gambia, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Dr. Alhaji Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh has demanded that international trade in fish and fishery products should be fair and equitable so that the sector achieves sustainable development and responsible utilization of living aquatic resource.

The Gambian leader made the remarks in a statement read on his behalf by the Vice President, Her Excellency Dr Ajaratou Isatou Nüe-Saidy at the ongoing first Conference of African Ministers of Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA) in Banjul.

“The present generation of fishing agreements is unfair, inequitable and consequently of little benefit to coastal states that own these invaluable God-Given natural resources,” he told the delegates from over 40 African countries and outside the continent.

“As a continent, Africa should come together to demand access agreements that contribute to the sustainable development of the sector and to the improvement of the lives of our people.”

He said that the same applies to trade adding that there should not be hidden barriers to trade which limit the consumer’s freedom of choice of supplier, or that restricts market access. “There is a need for states dealing with Africa and wishing to introduce changes in the legal or regulatory requirements that affect fish trade, to give sufficient information and reasonable notice to allow us producers affected to adjust to the changes by introducing changes needed in processes and procedures to ensure compliance.”

He added that consultations between trading nations on timeframes to implement new trading, access and regulatory changes would be most desirable. President Jammeh highlighted the challenges facing the sector such as the lack of requisite infrastructure needed to promote value addition as well as a fair balance between artisanal and industrial fisheries.

“Fish is also a resource that continues to be threatened with decline in stock, from a combination of factors, including over-fishing aggravated by the indiscriminate or inappropriate use of fishing methods that destroy juvenile fish and fish survival, and poaching carried out by unlicensed vessels often from countries outside the continent,” he said.

Indeed, the issue of illegal fishing has been a major issue of discussion at the conference as Africa is said to lose at least US$1 billion every year in lost revenue. “Illegal fishing is removing fish valued at some US$1 billion from the waters of Sub-Saharan Africa every year,” says Tim Bostock, the Fisheries Advisor at the Department for International Development (DFID).

Fisheries resources currently provide significant benefits to Africa, including livelihoods to about 10 million people, nutrition and food security for over 30% of the population. These benefits are now severely threatened by ineffective fisheries governance, resulting in fisheries being over-exploited economically and often well beyond biologically sustainable limits. Global mismanagement, illegal fishing and ill-used subsidies amount to $100 billion every year in the fishing industry – and Africa contributes to this loss.

In addition, aquaculture production has not made much progress resulting in Africa being the only region in the world with the lowest level of productivity. Yet, Africa could gain substantially by improving fishery regulations, which will enhance the inherent wealth of this valuable and renewable natural asset.

Change is, therefore, required, which will ensure that Africa continues to benefit from her fishery resources and lead to significantly greater returns that stimulate economic growth and provide pathways out of poverty across the continent. This essential change, is the main reason the African Union decided to host its first-ever conference of Ministers of fisheries and aquaculture in the Gambia.

This conference is being held five years after the August 2005 Abuja Fish For All African Heads of States and Government Summit Declaration, that promoted a positive and pragmatic approach to developing the fishery sector. This approach involves public, private and NGO sector interests, with good resource management and sound investment.

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AU Chairperson Urges Fisheries Experts on Peace in Banjul,The Gambia

By Denis Jjuuko

Fisheries experts, ministers, and stakeholders currently attending the First Conference of African Ministers on Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA) have been urged to work towards peace through innovative and inclusive partnerships at all levels. This call was contained in a statement by the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Mr. Jean Ping, in his message for the commemoration of the International Peace Day.

The United Nations proclaimed September 21 every year as the day of peace since 1982 as a way of providing a rallying point for the United Nations and its member states, as well as for civil society, private sector and individuals, to join forces to advance global peace. In Africa, the year 2010 was designated as the “Year of Peace and Security” by the African Union during the special session on the Consideration and Resolution of Conflicts in Africa, held in Tripoli in August 2009.

Mr. Ping said that pursuit of peace is not the preserve of politicians, national governments and international organizations alone. “It is only when all women and men, civil society and the private sector, join hands with governments and relevant international institutions that permanent peace will be a reality,” he told the gathering of over 200 delegates at the Sheraton Gambia Hotel.

Without peace and stability, Mr. Ping observed that more people and not just combatants who suffer but mainly women and children as a result of consequences of conflict than from direct conflict-related violence.

He added that the economic toll is also devastating. “Conservative estimates point to a combined economic loss of around US$300 billion since 1990 by African countries affected by conflict. Indeed, conflict remains one of the greatest impediments to sustainable development in Africa today. Peace is a prerequisite for sustainable development.”

Chairperson Ping said that Peace Day affords Africa the chance to take stock and celebrate the continent’s hard won gains, cherish the peace that we have, and honour and commemorate those who have dedicated themselves for resolving conflicts and restoring security on our continent but challenged everybody to play their roles and make contributions to make an end to conflict and achieve sustained peace.

“Peace Day is an opportunity for us all to do something to advance and celebrate peace in our workplaces, in our homes, in our communities, in our nations and on our continent. We each have a duty to make peace happen,” he told conference participants. He implored them to refrain from violence, give hope to the children and make peace for a better future.

Talking of children, nine year old Remotse Kgwadi recited a poem titled “A World of Peace” in which she prayed for peace to happen on this world irrespective of race in all our days and attend to our ways.

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CAMFA opens with call to stop illegal activities on Africa’s waters

By Denis Jjuuko in Banjul

The first Conference of African Ministers for Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA) opened today in the Gambian capital, Banjul, with a call to put in place robust strategies and policies to check the wanton pilferage of the continent’s aquatic resources through illegal and unreported activities in Africa’s waters.

The call was made by Her Excellence Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission during the opening ceremony of the conference taking place at the Sheraton Gambia Hotel. “There are a lot of efforts already marshaled in this direction and I call on you to accelerate the process that will enable the next round of consultations to attain our desired goals,” she said.

Ms Tumusiime stressed the urgency needed in sparing no efforts in getting the African sector right. “I am convinced that together, we will overcome any challenges facing this sector and through this dialogue that we have began and subsequent actions, we will turn all problems and challenges into opportunities to ensure we achieve sound management and development of the fisheries sector in Africa,” she added.

Her view was echoed by Lamin Kaba Bajo, Gambia’s Minister of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters while officiating at the opening ceremony. Mr. Bajo called for strong and urgent needs for genuine cooperation among and between member states as well as the support of development partners. “There is need for an agreement to ensure far greater consistency between existing fisheries initiatives at regional and national levels by assisting the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Regional Fisheries Bodies (RFBs), and national member states to translate the NEPAD Fisheries Action Plan into more coherent Regional and National Development Strategies, which can respond effectively to regional and national needs,” he said.

He argued that individual states may well “reform their fisheries policies and governance but yet remain vulnerable to the activities of their neighbours.” It is, therefore, important that efforts  are needed to ensure regional collaboration, potentially through RECs, RFBs and other regional bodies to address the needs of shared, straddling and highly migratory stocks and high seas fish resources.

On his part, Nepad Planning and Coordinating Agency CEO, Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki said that CAMFA marks another important milestone in the implementation of the continent’s vision on agriculture that prominently locates fisheries in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). “Fisheries are an important component of the agricultural sector in Africa. It is pleasing that some countries have identified fisheries as one of the key drivers of the agricultural growth,” he said.

Over 10 million Africans derive their livelihood from the fishing industry and are employed in different entry points of the fishing value chain. The fisheries sector, therefore, makes a vital contribution to meeting the food and nutrition security needs of millions of Africans and has become a leading export commodity with an annual export value of US$2.7 billion. However, these impressive benefits are at a risk as African fish stocks in both marine and freshwater sources are declining.

Experts warn that Africa maybe losing the potential to harvest between US$2 to US$5 billion of economic returns every year as a direct outcome of mismanagement. “Illegal fishing is removing fish valued at some US$1 billion from the waters of Sub-Saharan Africa every year,” warns Tim Bostock, the Fisheries Advisor at the DFID. CAMFA, therefore, comes at the right time as Africa seeks a way forward for its fisheries sector.

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African fish stocks declining-CAMFA

By Brenda Zulu

Per capita fish supplies against increasing demands are dropping and an increase in illegal marine fisheries by foreign ships is threatening the livelihoods of millions in Africa.

Dr Babagana Ahmadu, Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative to The Gambia said this at the opening of the Conference of African Ministers of Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA) meeting at which he indicated that African fish stocks in both marine and freshwater sources were declining.

“There are challenges in the continent that have stifled the growth of aquaculture, one being the inadequate number of feed production companies that are capable of producing knowledge based sustainable feeds and feed ingredients.  The challenges to achieving sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture are global and need to be addressed through coordinated action,” said Dr Ahmadu.

He called on the need for responsible stewardship to protect and conserve the continents aquatic resources for present and future generations.

The African fisheries sector has the potential to contribute about six percent of the continents annual economic growth however, its it has a low adaptive capacity to deal with this challenge because of shortages of information, technology, skills, economic resources and threat by climate change among others.

Dr Ahmadu added that FAO developed a number of initiatives to promote responsible fisheries management to help member countries tackle problems of over exploitation, overcapacity, illegal fishing and inadequate management.

One of the key initiative is the FAO Code of Conduct for responsible Fisheries and regional initiatives such as the Sub-regional Fisheries commission, to the Committee for Eastern and Central Atlantic Fisheries (CECAF), to the fisheries research programme linked to the Norwegian research vessel, the Nansen and through partnerships with related initiatives to address the challenges that face sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in Africa.

Meanwhile, Tim Bostock, Department for International Development DFID) Fisheries Advisor acknowledged key facts about African fish and fisheries such as the fact that 200million Africans eat fish and that in many parts of Africa, fish may be the only protein food.

Other facts were that African international trade in fish products was estimated to amount to $4.3 billion which was 8 percent of the global trade.

Fish was also said to be one of the most nutritious foods known to man-not only does it comprise high quality protein, but fish may also represent the sole source of essential elements and fats to many vulnerable rural African consumers, especially women and children. FAO also emphasised that fish was by far the most important agricultural commodity traded internationally from developing countries.

Set against the benefits were two major threats to the African fisheries which include the fact that the mismanagement of fisheries was costing economies some $50 billion each year.

“This vast loss of wealth is shared, probably disproportionately, by African economies. Africa may be losing the potential to harvest some $2 to 5billion of economic return every year as direct outcome of mismanagement,” said Bostock.

The other threat observed was that illegal fishing was removing  and stealing the fish valued at some $1billion from the waters of Sub-Saharan Africa every year.

Despite being one of Africa’s most valuable renewable natural assets, and in spite of the threats to their integrity, it seems strange that fisheries consistently fail to capture the serious attention of many donors and national governments.

He said there was need for urgent attention needed to ensure that both benefits were sustained or enhanced and threats were being mitigated.

“Without doubt, better fisheries governance and management, combined with effective monitoring, improved market access and trade, must play an integral role in this. Not only are African economies and regional food supplies the potential beneficiaries, but also the growing number of international markets where purchasing decisions are increasingly determined on the legitimacy and sustainability of supply chains,” said Bostock.

He said the failure of fisheries to generate wealth and contribute sustainably to national growth was far from being just an African problem.

There was need to realize that the fisheries were an economic activity which, should be enabled to flourish, to be profitable and to be sustainable.

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