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Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
African fish industry 'in crisis'
Fishing boats in Africa
Fishing employs up to 10 million people in Africa
Africa's fisheries industry is facing a crisis, experts have claimed, with over-fishing and a lack of investment threatening its long-term future.

The warning came ahead of a four day conference in Nigeria to discuss ways to stimulate small-scale fish farming and to improve aquaculture.

Fishing is vital to Africa, supporting annual exports worth about $3bn.

Fish is also crucial to the health of 200 million Africans, providing a source of inexpensive protein.

Sustainable solutions

The Fish For All summit, beginning on Monday in the Nigerian capital Abuja, will seek sustainable ways of reviving Africa's dwindling fish stocks while protecting employment in the industry.

Ahead of the meeting, research organisation WorldFish Center warned that stocks were so depleted that a 20% increase in fish farming would be needed to maintain consumption at its current level.

We need to appreciate that our fish have a critical role to play in Africa's development
Professor Richard Mkandawire, Nepad
It said that large-scale commercial farming had exploited food stocks as well as endangering the environment.

Replenishing the continent's fish stocks is crucial to safeguarding Africa's food security, development agencies will argue this week.

"We need to appreciate that our fish have a critical role to play in Africa's development," Professor Richard Mkandawire, senior agricultural advisor for the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad) told the BBC's Network Africa Programme.

"Focused action at a national, regional and international level is needed to foster this."

Focused investment

Fish catches have fallen sharply across the continent in recent years, resulting in a significant decline in consumption.

Scientific bodies believe small-scale fish farming is the answer to building up fish stocks, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

At the summit, it will call for targeted investment of $30m in small-scale projects in an effort to increase stocks by 10%.

"We are talking about ponds on people's farms, not enormous fish farms of the kind you see in Scotland and elsewhere," Patrick Dugan, the Center's deputy director-general, told the Financial Times.

Increased investment would improve the preservation and packaging of fish and speed up its route to market, especially in coastal areas.

Fisheries are a major source of employment in Africa, with up to 10 million people working in the industry.

Fish also has a key role to play in sustaining public health, Professor Mkandawire added, supplying a vital source of protein for HIV sufferers.

In that regard, it was vital that governments across Africa worked together to improve management of stocks.

"National governments as well as the private sector have enough resources to stimulate the growth of aquaculture," Mr added.


SEE ALSO:
Fishing for a future
19 Mar 03 |  Business
Fisheries link to bushmeat trade
12 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
Europe's fleets 'waste Africa's fish'
01 Apr 02 |  Science/Nature
Tanzania probes illegal fishing
02 Aug 04 |  Africa
Can Africa's poverty be beaten?
04 Feb 05 |  Africa


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