By ESTHER OLUKU
Captain Bell Emmanuel, the Head of Information and Communications Management, the Inter-Regional Coordination Center (ICC) Yaoundé has said that illegal fishing poses the greatest threat to the sustainable development of Africa’s maritime domain. This is coming as statistics of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) was reported to have dropped significantly in the second quarter of 2021.
Speaking at a recent conference organised by Global Strategic Platform (GSP), Emmanuel stated that as a result of the unavailability of statistics on the menace of illegal fishing, researchers have no data with which to measure the extent of the impact of the damage being done to the marine environment and coastal communities.
He posited that it is arguably more difficult to combat illegal fishing which puts a strain on the sustainable development goals of the continent than piracy.
“It is easier to fight against piracy and armed robbery than it is to fight against illegal fishing and this illegal fishing impacts on our sustainable development. I think this is the most dangerous maritime threat in the area.
“We don’t have statistics on the range of illegal fishing in our area because sometimes the states in the Gulf of Guinea are reluctant to release statistics about illegal fishing but globally, illegal fishing threatens our sustainable development”, he said.
Emmanuel added that even though the GoG has just in the last quarter recorded it lowest cases of piracy in the last ten years, poaching stands as the most pressing Maritime threat to Africa.
“We have recorded the lowest number of piracy in the GoG in the second quarter of 2021 in the last 10 years since the Inter-Regional Coordination Center (ICC) Yaoundé became operational in 2018 but I think illegal fishing is the most dangerous Maritime threat in our area.”
On his part, Christian Bueger, Professor of International Relations at the University of Copenhagen who expressed fears on the environmental damage caused to human communities by poachers, stated that some fish species may go into extinction if illegal fishing persists.
“More attention is needed to address illegal fishing as one expression of blue economy crimes and there is also a sad side to it because there is not much fish left. It is clear that illegal fishing threatens quite a substantial amount of coastal communities.
“The fish stocks are declining substantially and I wish our children would still be able to eat sea fish. Illegal fishing threatens communities and the source of national income for countries in the Gulf of Guinea. And in this regard, illegal fishing is just one part of environmental crimes at sea”, he said.
Adding to the discussion, Lucas Da Silva, the Cell Head, Civil-Military Engagement for the Sub Sahara CDR noted that another challenge posed by illegal fishing is the use of disruptive technologies to carry out organised crime. Da Silva also noted that with the threats posed by illegal fishing and the insecurity of farmers in Africa, many people are in search of alternative sources of livelihood.
“Illegal fishing pose high security risk and significant drop in fishing stocks and can be a perfect platform for all types of criminality at sea from human and drug trafficking to arms trafficking. Fishing vessels can serve as a weapon for emerging and disruptive technologies that can be used to divert underwater cables.
“The two most important economic sectors in Africa, fishing and farming, are being destroyed and many people are looking for other sources of income”, he said.