UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Fisheries Catch Reconstructions : West Africa : Part II Belhabib, Dyhia; Pauly, D. (Daniel)


The development trajectory upon which these West African countries found themselves when they became independent was strongly shaped by this colonialism, which was harsh and difficult to get rid of - particularly for the ex-Portuguese colonies. Traces of colonialism are thus felt at all levels, notably where the struggle for political and economic ‘agency’ after formal independence plunged these countries into perennial political instability (e.g., Guinea Bissau), or long and murderous civil wars and/or wars over natural resources (e.g., Angola, Congo ex-Zaire). Some other countries transited smoothly into neo-colonies, where development and research institutions fail to play their nation-building role, as they serve mainly to maintain previous colonial ties. This has resulted, particularly in the former French colonies, in a general reluctance to transfer knowledge to local institutions. Neo-colonial ties are also illustrated through the profile of exploitation of natural resources, notably fish stocks, to which the former colonial powers often maintains a privileged access. As a result, West African countries did not develop truly national industrial fisheries, which would have formed an obstacle to the foreign industrial fleets that gradually invaded their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). As a consequence, in most of their coastal areas, foreign vessels and the stock depletions they cause(d) hinder the development of the artisanal and local industrial fisheries. This has led to growing tensions, which are only partly alleviated by foreign fleets being reflagged to the countries in whose waters they operate, and landing the low-value part of their catch locally. The resolution of these tensions, increased by growing demands for fish by both consumers in Western Europe and East Asia, and the inhabitants of West African countries, will determine whether issues of food security will prevail over the power of international markets. This is the reason why we contrast, for each country, the catches of smallscale fisheries, which mostly enter the local economies, and those of industrial (mostly foreign) fisheries, which tend to hinder their development.

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