fleets plundering west African stocks
By Michael McCarthy Environment Editor
18 March 2002
fishing fleets from developed countries, including the European
Union, are destroying the fish stocks of the poor states of west
Africa, a United Nations report warns.
A study of Mauritania,
where EU, Japanese and Chinese boats have been given access to
fishing grounds in return for hard cash, has found a dramatic fall
in catches as stocks are over-exploited.
Catches of octopus
have halved in the past four years and some species, such as
sawfish, have completely disappeared, the report says. Local
employment has also been hard hit as a result of over-fishing and
over-capacity in the foreign fleets. The number of people employed
in the traditional octopus fishery in Mauritania has fallen from a
peak of nearly 5,000 in 1996 to about 1,800 now.
The over-fishing is
due to a failure by some boats to comply with the rules, lack of
enforcement and a shortage of fisheries protection vessels
alongside other factors, the report says. Current regulations
allow European Union shrimp boats to use a smaller
mesh size than local boats.
The report follows
another recent UN study on the fisheries of neighbouring Senegal,
which found that activity by foreign fleets, especially from the
EU, had had a "devastating" effect on some important
fish stocks. The switching of the local Senegalese fishing effort
to export species also had a serious impact on local food supplies,
the report found.
"The fish stocks
in many developed country waters have been severely depleted as
too many, often heavily subsidised, fleets chase too few fish,"
said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the UN Environment
Programme. "As a result they are looking elsewhere for
catches. It is vital that the unsustainable fishing of the past
and the present is not exported to the developing world."
say one of the most unacceptable aspects of EU fishing off the
coast of Africa is the presence there of the world's biggest
fishing boat, the Irish vessel Atlantic Dawn. This £50m
supertrawler is nearly 450ft long and can catch and process 7,000
tons of fish in a single voyage, far more than a Mauritanian
fishing community might catch in a year.
The vessel, owned by
the businessman Kevin Murphy, has attracted much controversy as it
was not originally registered as a fishing boat because it was too
big for EU rules. It has recently been registered retrospectively
as a fishing vessel by the European Commission in Brussels in
spite of protests.
"The problem with
boats like this is the sheer scale of what they do," said
Bernadette Clarke, fisheries officer with the Marine Conservation
Society. "In Europe we are meant to be reducing the size of
our fishing fleets, and to allow a boat like this to go and fish
in Mauritanian waters means we've exported our problems, which is
Link : http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/story.jsp?story=275719