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West Africa can create 300,000 new jobs if it tackled illegal fishing, invests in fisheries – report.

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FisheriesWestern African countries can create more than 300,000 jobs if they invest in the fisheries sector, a new report has found.

The report by the Overseas Development Institute and porCausa, the Spanish investigative journalism organisation, argues that a crack down on illegal fishing by foreign commercial fleets operating in western Africa and investment in the region’s maritime industry could lead to major benefits, including more than 300,000 new jobs.

The report, titled; ‘Western Africa’s missing fish’, says weak regulation among governments in the region and a lack of deterrence measures, including coastguard patrols, mean that efforts to curb the plunder of the region’s rich maritime resources are likely to fail.

The report found among other things that there are difficulties of preventing illegally-caught fish entering the supply chain – in part due to the industry practise of ship-to-ship transfers of catches.

“Among the 35 fish processing vessels known as reefers, operating in the region in 2013, tracking data showed routes consistent with the transfer of catches from fishing vessels to reefers. This included inside the exclusive fishing waters of Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire – countries which have banned this practice.

Most of the reefers were flying a ‘flag of convenience’ – a maritime term associated with ship companies registering vessels in countries with less stringent enforcement mechanisms.

Some of reefers and companies analysed, had previously been named as suspects in IUU activities,” the report said.

The authors of the report urge that regional governments should make a concerted effort to build up their fish processing industries and indigenous fishing fleets, instead of selling off fishing rights to foreign operators, as currently happens.

“This could create up hundreds of thousands of new jobs, tackle the current high rates of youth unemployment and generate eight times the amount of revenue – some $3.3 billion – as the sale of foreign rights. It could also help improve the diet and health of the region’s people, as more households consume fish protein normally exported by foreign vessels,” the report noted.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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