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UBC Theses and Dissertations

West African fisheries : past, present and 'futures?' Belhabib, Dyhia


This thesis provides evidence for why more complete fisheries catch estimates should be included in fisheries assessments. West African fisheries suffer over-exploitation, illegal fishing and overcapacity. Certainly, overlooking small-scale sectors and attributing “zero” to existing gaps do not improve the situation. Under-reporting masks fisheries real trends and overcapacity, contributing to intensifying over-exploitation, whose impacts, along with the effects of climate change, could be disastrous. My research focuses on the fisheries of the Western part of the African continent. I begin by presenting methods to estimate the “invisible” catch through the case study of Senegal. I designed this “catch reconstruction” to illustrate the effects of illegal fishing on small-scale fisheries whose geographical range has increased significantly. I used reconstructed data for small-scale fisheries to quantify their contribution to employment and the economy, their profitability and the evolution of fisher’s income as compared to the national poverty line. I found that people increasingly rely on fisheries despite their low income, now dangerously close to the poverty line. Foreign fisheries also contribute to generating income, but also to income losses. I compare the performance of fisheries by China and Europe in West Africa in terms of reporting, illegal fishing and compensation. It appears that despite the inherent policy differences between China and Europe in terms of their Distant Water Fleet (DWF) operations, they both under-reported catches, fished illegally and undercompensated for fishing agreements. They also both contribute to reducing the biomass of fish available to local fishers, and hence to a reduction fishing opportunities and incomes. Fish stocks, and therefore, fisheries are also affected by climate change. I examine these effects and overlap them with some fisheries socio-economic indicators and found that artisanal fishers were more likely to “follow the fish” by expanding their fishing range, while industrial fishers seem to have more flexible as their range of adaptation strategies appears to be wider. In summary, the work on West African fisheries refutes the myth of “lack of data”, and I show that sufficient data exist to analyze the effects of current fisheries policy, and by implication, to formulate alternatives.

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