UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Marine Fisheries Catches in West Africa, 1950-2010 : Part 1 Belhabib, Dyhia; Zeller, Dirk, 1961-; Harper, Susan; Pauly, D. (Daniel)


Fisheries provide food for a large number of people all over the world. In West Africa, fish is a major source of animal protein and millions of people depend on it, being the cheapest and more accessible animal protein resource for local populations. The contribution of West African fisheries to food security is often undermined. Moreover, the low official fish consumption rate presented by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (14.7 kg per capita, 1999-2006) does not reflect a reality where significant catches are unreported and therefore under-estimated in official statistics. More comprehensive catch data reported herein reveal that annual fish consumption can be as high as 88 kg per capita in some coastal communities of West Africa, which demonstrates the importance of fish to their food security. Fisheries also provide jobs and incomes, further increasing food security and allowing people to purchase high calorie staples. This report presents a historical perspective of fisheries and a more realistic estimate of fisheries removals from the exclusive economic zones of six Northwest African countries (Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Cape Verde and Guinea). The rationale behind this work negates zero as a valid estimate for existing large-scale and small-scale fishing sector catches. The reconstructed catches include both domestic and foreign fisheries extractions, providing higher resolution catch data for six decades. Through a comprehensive review of the literature and local expert knowledge, the authors have reduced the level of uncertainty related to the catch reconstruction methods. As such, the results in this contribution provide a more realistic baseline, not only for determining future trends of fisheries but for estimating the sustainable surplus that can be accessed by distant-waters fleets in these waters. I therefore commend the authors for this important contribution.

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