Facing the Challenges in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector in West Africa
Tuesday, 23 March, 2021 - 13:45

In West Africa, fisheries and aquaculture contribute a lot to the revenue of the States through royalties and financial compensation within the framework of the various fishing agreements. They play an important role in meeting the nutritional needs of the populations with low purchasing power. They also generate an important source of job creation for more than 9 million full-time workers. Most of these jobs derive from the artisanal fishing sub-sector, where women represent more than half of the segment.

The largest producers of fisheries resources are respectively Nigeria with 1,169,480 tons, followed by Senegal with 485,560 tons, Ghana with 393,800 tons and Sierra Leone with 202,190 tons. The first three countries alone account for 1,323,233.5 tons or 75% of West African fisheries production in 2018.

Comparatively, the production levels of continental countries are much less significant than those of the coastal countries. As a fact, the combined production of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger represents less than 10% of regional production.

Total exports from ECOWAS countries have reached 447,000 tons in recent years, with Senegal as the leading exporter, accounting for 74% of regional exports. It is followed by Sierra Leone (4%) and Nigeria (3%).

Yet, the results of the sector assessment indicate that fisheries and aquaculture in West Africa are still plagued by the following challenges, among others:

  • poor governance in the management of fish stocks,
  • threats to the marine environment exacerbated by poor fishing practices,
  • importance of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,
  • low promotion of fisheries products, and
  • insufficient coordination and cooperation among regional institutions.

To address these challenges, the ECOWAS Commission has been implementing, since 2018 with funding from the European Union Commission, the Program "Improvement of Regional Governance of Fisheries and Aquaculture in West Africa (PESCAO).

The overall objective of PESCAO is to improve the contribution of fisheries resources to the sustainable development of food security and poverty alleviation in West Africa. More specifically, the ECOWAS Commission seeks, through this program, to improve regional fisheries governance in its space through better coordination of national fisheries policies.

While working in the perspective of PESCAO, the ECOWAS Commission could also quickly explore the best way of strengthening the negotiating power of its Member States, especially the coastal ones, so that they stand up in international trade, as a single maritime domain, in accordance with the provisions of the 2050 maritime strategy adopted by the African Union Commission.