By Denis Jjuuko in Banjul, 20/9/2010
The first Conference of African Ministers for Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA) opened today in the Gambian capital, Banjul, with a call to put in place robust strategies and policies to check the wanton pilferage of the continent’s aquatic resources through illegal and unreported activities in Africa’s waters.
The call was made by Her Excellence Mrs Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission during the opening ceremony of the conference taking place at the Sheraton Gambia Hotel. “There are a lot of efforts already marshaled in this direction and I call on you to accelerate the process that will enable the next round of consultations to attain our desired goals,” she said.
Mrs Tumusiime stressed the urgency needed in sparing no efforts in getting the African sector right. “I am convinced that together, we will overcome any challenges facing this sector and through this dialogue that we have began and subsequent actions, we will turn all problems and challenges into opportunities to ensure we achieve sound management and development of the fisheries sector in Africa,” she added.
Her view was echoed by Lamin Kaba Bajo, Gambia’s Minister of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters while officiating at the opening ceremony. Mr. Bajo called for strong and urgent needs for genuine cooperation among and between member states as well as the support of development partners. “There is need for an agreement to ensure far greater consistency between existing fisheries initiatives at regional and national levels by assisting the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Regional Fisheries Bodies (RFBs), and national member states to translate the NEPAD Fisheries Action Plan into more coherent Regional and National Development Strategies, which can respond effectively to regional and national needs,” he said.
He argued that individual states may well “reform their fisheries policies and governance but yet remain vulnerable to the activities of their neighbours.” It is, therefore, important that efforts are needed to ensure regional collaboration, potentially through RECs, RFBs and other regional bodies to address the needs of shared, straddling and highly migratory stocks and high seas fish resources.
On his part, NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency CEO, Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki said – in a statement – that CAMFA marks another important milestone in the implementation of the continent’s vision on agriculture that prominently locates fisheries in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). “Fisheries are an important component of the agricultural sector in Africa. It is pleasing that some countries have identified fisheries as one of the key drivers of the agricultural growth,” he said.
Over 10 million Africans derive their livelihood from the fishing industry and are employed in different entry points of the fishing value chain. The fisheries sector, therefore, makes a vital contribution to meeting the food and nutrition security needs of millions of Africans and has become a leading export commodity with an annual export value of US$2.7 billion. However, these impressive benefits are at a risk as African fish stocks in both marine and freshwater sources are declining.
Experts warn that Africa maybe losing the potential to harvest between US$2 to US$5 billion of economic returns every year as a direct outcome of mismanagement. “Illegal fishing is removing fish valued at some US$1 billion from the waters of Sub-Saharan Africa every year,” warns Tim Bostock, the Fisheries Advisor at the DFID. CAMFA, therefore, comes at the right time as Africa seeks a way forward for its fisheries sector.
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Photo source: World Bank