ELMINA — Over 100 journalists from 44 African countries convened in Elmina, Ghana, to tackle issues in the fisheries sector. They witnessed how sustainable fishery management can reduce extreme poverty, build climate resilient communities, and foster strong economies. Together, journalists decided to harness the power of the media to support sustainable fisheries.
“The promotion of transparency and participation in the fisheries sector is taking center stage globally. It is obvious that without a platform or an effective network to disseminate relevant information to the public, these objectives will be difficult to achieve, even with the best will of governments,” said Marieme Talla Diagne, Acting Permanent Secretary, West Africa Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC).
In Africa, fish account for more than half of the total animal protein people eat (FAO), and fish provides essential food security, which is particularly important in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone as they are recovering from Ebola outbreaks. Globally, 1 billion people in developing countries depend on fish for their primary source of protein, yet many fisheries are overexploited, and poor management and illegal fishing make it hard for fishers to feed their families. In Ghana for example, about 135,000 fishers saw a 40 percent decline in catch in the first decade of the 21st century.
“Over the past decades, Africa’s capture fisheries rapidly expanded without proper governance or management. In other words, there are too many boats and too many fishers chasing too few fish. The consequence has been biological degradation of fish resources and substantial economic losses”, said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra, in his opening remarks.
Globally, the economic loss from poor fisheries governance and management amounts to $50-100 billion each year. As African fisheries continue to expand, policies are needed to guide the industry to prevent further resource degradation, rehabilitate overexploited stocks, and manage overall fishing effort levels.
Development partners have come a long way in supporting country efforts to build sustainable fishery management and coastal resources, and finding success in community-led fisheries. However, there is still a long way to go. Including the media in the governance of the fisheries sector is expected to bring a heightened sense of awareness and a more complete understanding of the urgency by the public.
“I am pleased to say that we have met our objective to develop a network of African journalists who will promote sustainable fisheries and resilient fisheries communities. We organized this workshop to assist them in producing factual, accurate, deep-dive reporting on fisheries issues,” said Dr. Mohamed Seisay, Senior Fisheries Officer, African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources.
Journalists traveled to the fishing communities of Apam, Elmina, and Moree to meet with fishers, families and local officials and experience how the 40 percent decline in fish stock has affected their lives. Communities discussed their daily struggle to make a living from the fisheries sector deeply affected by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and to tackle the use of chemicals and dynamite in the water, child labor, and gender issues.
“We have partnered with the African Union, USAID and SRFC to provide this fantastic opportunity to bring journalists from 44 African countries together and provide them with a forum to brainstorm on the fisheries sector, its challenges and solutions. We expect journalists to go back and support countries’ efforts to make the fisheries sector the cornerstone of food security, livelihoods, social safety nets, and jobs,” said Magda Lovei, Practice Manager, Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice, World Bank.
Journalists came away from the meeting realizing how important inland and marine fisheries are to the livelihoods of millions of Africans and as a source of low cost animal food protein, especially for the poor.
“Weak management has threatened this important local and sustainable food supply on many parts of the continent. Journalists need to report on emerging success stories from Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Kenya, Malawi and elsewhere demonstrating that Africa can meet the challenges of sustaining these food supplies and increasing the contributions of aquaculture and capture fisheries,” stated Dr. Brian Crawford, Director of the USAID/Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project.