Alex Rose-Innes

A decade ago, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) identified nineteen climate hotspots in West Africa, the tropical region among others.

With the livelihood of millions of Africans at stake, experts from Greenpeace and the Stop Illegal Fishing environmental group, had pointed out serious flaws in the deal signed between Liberia and Senegal. According to these groups, the deal could lead to food insecurity in the foreseeable future.

Since the agreement between the two poor coastal African countries had been signed, many sector stakeholders had voiced their concern that it was not in the interest of the Senegalese people.

According to Stephen Akester, an independent fisheries consultant, “the country needs assistance to develop its fisheries sector and methods have been proposed and the theory for assistance from a neighbouring state could be an attraction.” However, Senegal has a serious problem of overfishing and is looking to take advantage of the stock conservation work carried out by Liberia in recent years.”

Akester said the protocol signed by the Liberian and Senegalese fisheries authorities would be hard to manage. “The major concern is the wellbeing of the coastal communities with access to recovered fish stocks, giving some protection from the current economic downturn the rest of the country is experiencing.”

Maintaining that a semi-industrial fishery in Liberia would be the best option, he said and according to Akester, the country was uniquely positioned to bring sustainable fishing in West Africa to fruition.

An expert’s opinion on the definition of artisanal or semi-industrial fishing boats blows the protocol framework out of the water. He told UNEP and Greenpeace African delegates that Senegal’s Niominka fishermen had almost decimated the fish from Guinea Bissau using canoes and mother vessels.

With the latest protocol providing artisanal and semi-industrial Sengalese fishermen with the same conditions as Liberian nationals, the language barrier is also considered a barrier as is the application of existing port laws in Liberia which could deny Senegal’s fishing community entry into its waters.

Experts are in agreement that Senegalese fishermen should be barred from fishing inside six miles (9,6km) from the coast and ship-owners should provide authenticated certificates of nationality, essential for measurement of gross tonnage.

With this Western African region and its more than 340 million inhabitants across 16 countries, overfishing is but one of the humanitarian disasters of this century, a statement from Greenpeace Africa, read.

The consequences of global warming are severely impacting two key activities in West Africa: agricultural activities and fishing, the real economic lifeline of the region. Mauritania and Senegal are predicted to be the most at risk of severe climate change events and food shortages.

A UN disaster prediction report said that even if Senegal managed to pull through with assistance from the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund, it seemed that one of the major challenges remains the ability of African countries to combat ecological disasters.