- The artisanal fisheries sector in Angola has experienced crisis and decline for three decades, first due to war and dissolution of local cooperatives, later due to overfishing by Spanish trawlers. Now, the Angolan Ministry of Fisheries plans to assist artisanal fishermen investing in equipment, hoping to restore the sector.
The Institute for Artisanal Fisheries (IPA) within the Ministry of Fisheries is predicting that Angola's annual traditional fishing yields soon should stand at more than 35,000 tons of both fresh and seawater catches, reports the government's agency for private investments (ANIP).
Currently, traditional fishing yields are at a historic low, below 20,000 tons, but IPA Director General Domingos Duarte says that the Ministry's plans to provide artisanal equipment, including fishing nets and motors to the small, traditional fishing boats (chatas) "will generate increased production in the sector."
In the last four years, Angola's largest artisanal fishing production yield was in 2002 when the country caught 39,889 tons of fish through traditional means. Even the catches in 2002 are however considered small compared to the artisanal fisheries sector's heydays in the 1960s and 1970s. Estimates put the catches three decades ago at the double.
The IPA estimates that there currently are some 25,500 fisherman living in 102 traditional fishing communities along the Angolan coastline and using 3000-4500 boats. About half of these chata boats are motorised. Also the number of artisanal fishermen is reported to have been substantially larger in the 1970s.
Angola's artisanal fisheries sector is believed to have a large potential if certain conditions are met. At the coast, the northbound Benguela Current brings cold water and perfect conditions for larges fish stocks. The Atlantic waters off southern Angola, Namibia and South Africa are probably the richest in all of Africa.
In colonial days, coastal fishing from chatas was still a secure way of raising a family. There was plenty of fish, markets along the coast and in the interior were functional and the fishermen worked in well-managed local cooperatives. With the wars, markets became closed. Government interference hurt most of the cooperatives.
The largest problem, however, came with large foreign trawler fleets that often went far too close to the coast. First, there were colonial Portuguese vessels, then the large fleet of the Soviet Union and now, finally, vessels from the European Union (EU), mostly from Spain. Parallel overfishing in Namibian waters gave a further blow to Angolan coastal fish stocks.
As revenues from the artisanal fisheries were crippled, there were no more investments in the chatas. Now, however, the civil war is over, Angola's infrastructure is slowly being rebuilt and interior markets are opening. The large artisanal fleet in the country desperately needs investments in modernised equipment to feed the growing market.
Environmentalists however hold that the government's investment in the chata fleet may be the wrong way to solve Angola's crisis in the artisanal fisheries. Local fishing communities even find it difficult to feed themselves from their catches due to overfishing by Spanish and other EU vessels close to the coast.
The environmental group WWF says that Angola has signed a row of unfavourable fisheries treated with the EU, based on lacking knowledge of the actual stocks and with no effective control measures. In the 2002-04 fisheries agreement, there were almost "no catch limits specified," WWF held, adding this was "not in line with sustainable fisheries." A new agreement is currently being negotiated with the EU.
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