In an effort to boost responsible commercial fishing as a key source of income and food for developing countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today announced a new project to promote the industry in Gabon, a fish-rich West African country that now has to import to meet its own needs.
With $270,000 in FAO support, Gabonese fishery officials will streamline procedures to assess and monitor Gabon’s fishery resources and create a national strategy to promote the sector.
“We hope this new project will help Gabon build up its fishing sector in a sustainable manner, adding jobs to the local economy and increasing the supply of marine fish also on the local market,” said Ulf Wijkström, Chief of FAO’s Fisheries Development Planning Service, which will help oversee the project.
The agency noted that recent figures show that net revenues from the fish trade (exports minus imports) by developing countries have reached $17.7 billion - a sum larger than that earned from their exports of tea, rice, cocoa and coffee combined.
In Gabon, small-scale artisanal fishing provides many with income and food, but most modern commercial fishing is conducted by foreign vessels. Just 10 to 20 per cent of the crews on those ships are Gabonese, and due to poor port infrastructure most vessels offload their catches in other countries, meaning jobs lost in related sectors like fish processing.
At the same time, Gabon’s yearly fish production, estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000 tons, falls short of national demand. Each year the country imports over 7,000 tons of fish products, FAO said. A main barrier to developing Gabon’s fishing industry has been the difficulty of maintaining a focused development strategy.
The new project will strengthen monitoring, assessing and reporting on fish stocks; suggest ways to create fish-processing centres and related industries to boost earnings; analyze service and infrastructure gaps in Gabon’s ports with an eye to upgrading them; and develop strategies for attracting investors to the country’s fishing sector.