By Sloans Chimatiro
Fish is a vital source of food and nutrition security for 400 million Africans. And, fisheries play a critical role in providing livelihoods for more than 12 million people as fishers and processors, of whom 27% are women. However, emerging challenges such as increasing population and fish demand, overexploitation of fishery resources, lack of fisheries reforms and environmental degradation are straining fisheries and the communities who depend on them.
While global per capita consumption of fish is rising, in sub-Saharan Africa, where it has the greatest potential to increase food and nutrition security, fish consumption is lower than the global average. Projections indicate that per capita fish consumption in the region will decline to 5.6 kilograms by 2030, that’s just one-third of the global average.
The world’s growing demand for seafood has led to overexploitation of Africa’s coastal and inland fisheries. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices and ineffective fisheries governance are increasingly depriving local small-scale fishers of a valuable food source and income. In 2014, the Africa Progress Panel report revealed that illegal fishing vessels flouting international conventions are costing West Africa alone over US$1billion per year.
Africa is rich in fish resources and yet the continent’s fish trade accounts for only 4.9 per cent of the legal global fish trade. Much of Africa’s fish trade is informal with little traceability, an increasingly important requirement for foreign buyers. Intra-regional fish trade, an area with huge growth potential, has remained neglected due to poor trade infrastructure and weak policy frameworks.