Illegal Chinese Fishing in West African Waters : A study on Chinese IUU Activities and its Consequences to Socio-Ecological Systems
Abstract: West African fisheries, considered as one of the most productive in the world, have been subjected to stress by distant fishing fleets since the 1950’s. The introduction of Exclusive Economic Zones by the United Nations in the 1970’s made it possible for these fleets to fish only under fishing agreements signed with a hosting land, provided that they will harvest the surplus left by the local fishing fleet. In the last two decades, China has emerged as an important fishing nation in West Africa. Although there is clear evidence that Chinese vessels operate in the area, information on Chinese fishing agreements with West African countries is often missing. The implications on local fisheries are considerable. Lack of data regarding fish landings in the region may result in an increase of unsustainable fishing. The results of this study show considerable involvement of Chinese fishing vessels in illegal fishing in West Africa. In addition to the substantial loss of revenues to local nations, the negative impacts of illegal fishing on the marine ecosystem are likely to affect human populations that rely on these ecosystems. As the vulnerability of these people, many of them living in poor rural communities, is already high, unsustainable fisheries and a potential shift in the state of the marine ecosystem is likely to worsen their situation even more. Most West African countries lack capital resources to invest in monitoring, control and surveillance authorities, making illegal fishing relatively effortless. A better capacity to deter this type of activities is likely to have a significant improvement on West African fisheries. In addition, Chinese authorities, committed to the United Nations Law of the Sea, have the responsibility to take action against Chinese vessels that perform illegal activities in other parts of the world. A decrease in Chinese illegal fishing activities in West Africa, assessed to be considerable based on the studies’ results, will improve the possibility for achieving sustainable fisheries in the region.
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