afrol News, 6 November - The Guinea-Bissauan government has decided to take stronger measures against well documented "fisheries piracy" in its economic maritime zone. Fisheries are the second industry in the country, where 65% of the population depends on the sea for basic subsistence.
According to a report by the Portuguese radio RDP, a delegation from the Ministry of Fisheries of Guinea-Bissau, lead by Minister Cirilo Cassamá, has arrived for talks in Russia. The objective of the Bissauan mission is to buy Russian speedboats to confront "the robbery of marine resources which take place in the country's exclusive economic zone."
Although agriculture and timber are the main exports of Guinea-Bissau, the sale of fishing licences to foreign fleets brings in hard currency. Estimated to be worth US$ 300 million, fishing rights have been sold to EU and other countries for a tenth of this value. There are restrictions on the amount of fish that can be taken, but the waters are becoming over-fished and Guinea-Bissau to this moment has not been able to afford to enforce controls.
Guinea-Bissau's coast, with its myriad of inlets and islands, is the nursery of West Africa's fisheries. Fish come each year to spawn in the shelter of the mangrove swamps that line the coast. There are laws to protect the coastal area but trawlers that come from Senegal, the EU, Canada and Japan "blatantly flaunt these regulations as they flaunt agreed quotas," according to the World Conservation Union, IUCN.
Only locally, and on local initiatives, are the coastal resources guarded. A project financed by the Swiss Development Authority and IUCN has helped regulate fisheries in the shore of Rio Grande de Buba, enabling local fishermen to develop their local industry and market.
A new Guinea-Bissau EU five-years fisheries deal, which started 16 June this year, retained high EU quotas. There were not introduced new control measures in the agreement, like the satellite monitoring of fishing vessels that has proven valuable to other nations.
The Bissauan government, with its planned purchase of Russian speed boats, hopes to stand a better chance to protect its valuable resources, especially smaller fishing vessels from neighbouring countries that enter the coastal zone.