Illegal international fishing
impoverishes local fishermen
CONAKRY , 13 February 2008 (IRIN) - The livelihoods of local
fishermen are increasingly threatened by the many industrial
trawlers from Europe, China, Korea and Russia, which often operate
illegally in Guinea's once-abundant waters.
"The exclusive zones that are reserved for local fishing should be
recognised by the industrial boats and they should stay away from
them because their presence is causing a lot of economic and
social problems," Souba Camara, a government port official in
Conakry told IRIN.
He said it is illegal for industrial boats to fish in areas near
the shore designated for local fisherman but the laws are largely
Enforcing the laws would not just benefit a few fishermen, Camara
said. "A local fisherman may have 50 people depending on the
earnings from his net."
Almost none of the large industrial boats in Guinea's waters are
owned by Guineans.
The government is also losing revenue for what is one of the
world's poorest countries. More than US$100 million worth of fish
are pirated out of Guinea's waters each year, according to a study
by London-based Marine Resources Assessment Group.
But it is the local fishermen who are feeling the loss most. "If
we could fix this situation so that the big boats stay in their
assigned zones away from us [local fishermen] we would be able to
do our work," fisherman Mamadou Camara said.
"If not, we may not have fish left in our zone within a year."
Government in action
Guinea's government has tried to ban the export of some species of
fish to increase their availability in local markets. However,
fishermen IRIN talked with said this just opened the door for more
illegal international trade and diminished their earnings further.
The government does not have the means to monitor its waters,
Souba Camara, the port official, said.
In 2003 authorities attempted a project in which local fishermen
used radios to report sightings of pirate ships and other illegal
activity to various control posts along the coast, but the
initiative lacked funding and in 2006 stopped functioning, the
chairman of the Guinea association of local fishermen, Issiaga
Daffe told IRIN.
Daffe called for renewed monitoring efforts by the government and
donors and micro-financing for fishermen.
The safety of fishermen is also a growing concern. The number of
boating accidents has increased with the growth in illegal fishing,
as many of the illegal boats operate at night without lights. "There
have been cases of people being killed," Souba Camara, the
Despite the increased risks and decreased revenue the fishermen
say they have no alternatives but to continue their work. "Fishing
is all I know," said Souriba Camara, who owns a three-man wooden
boat named "Have Confidence" and hails from a long line of
"Fishing is who I am," he said.