Gabon has called on other African countries to step up efforts to protect marine eco-system against illegal fishing. The Gabonese Government, in conjunction with Sea Shepherd Global, a non-governmental organisation, recently carried a successful a five-month surveillance mission at sea dubbed Operation Albacore.
Gabon’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers over 200,000 square kilometres of highly productive waters that is responsible for 20 per cent of global tuna catches in the Atlantic.
“As a continent, we need to join hands to fight illegal fishing that threatens our economic mainstay,” said Gabriel Tchango, Gabonese Minister for State and Minister for Fisheries and Livestock.
Like Gabon, Kenya also faces challenges in protecting its marine ecosystem.
Speaking at one of the side events during TICAD meeting in Nairobi in August, Prof Japhet Micheni, the Principal Secretary in the State Department of Fisheries, reiterated the government’s commitment to maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem, which provides jobs and improves the economic prospects of the country.
“A healthy marine ecosystem equals more jobs, better food security, prosperity and a healthy climate,” he said.
In Africa alone, the World Bank estimates that 3.6 million people earn a living from direct fishing. Another 16 million depend indirectly on the industry.
Kenya Coastal Development Project (KCDP) was created to improve effectiveness and enhance revenue generation of Kenya’s coastal and marine resources. So far, KCDP has established biodiversity monitoring system and development of two joint fisheries co-management areas in the Kenyan Coast.
“It is not just about utilising it for livelihood, employment, food security and economic benefits to people and nations, but also ensuring sustainability and healthy ecosystems for us and for coming generations,” said Dinash Aryal, environment and natural resources specialist at World Bank.
Aryal said that the coastal communities are heavily affected by climate change emanating from mismanagement of marine ecosystems through ocean acidification, storms, and sea level rise.
According to Obina Inozie, a policy analyst for fisheries and agriculture at African Union, the continent needs to develop a sustainable blue economy — one that significantly reduces marine ecological and biodiversity deficiencies.
Operation Albacore conducted five missions of 21 days in Gabonese and Sao Tomean waters. The most horrifying case the team documented was of a Spanish vessel authorised to fish tuna in Sao Tomean waters.
“The freezers were crammed with thousands of shark fins. This boat had been illegally massacring sharks contrary with its licence and against EU regulations” Dr Mike Fay, a special advisor to Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, said.