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Last Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Summit pushes African fish plan
Nigerian fisherman stands in river at the Argungu Festival.  PIUS OTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images
Traditional fishing celebrated at the annual Argungu festival in Nigeria
A four-day summit on the future of African fisheries has ended with the adoption of a plan to boost the fishing and aquaculture industries.

The Abuja Declaration on Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture calls for increased production, environmental protection and trade liberalisation.

Nigeria's President Olugesun Obasanjo said Africa's fish production must more than triple over the coming decade.

Fish provides nearly a quarter of the protein in Africa's diet.

In less than 50 years, the global average per capita consumption of fish has almost doubled
WorldFish Center
A report issued on the eve of the summit by the WorldFish Center research organisation noted that sub-Saharan Africa is the only continent on which the per-capita availability of fish is declining.

In his closing address, President Obasanjo observed that although fishing brings Africa export earnings of US$2.7bn annually, "these benefits are at risk as the exploitation of African natural fish stocks is reaching its limits, and aquaculture production has not realised its full potential."

Sustainability the aim

Currently, only 2% of Africa's fish comes from aquaculture; the WorldFish report concluded that production could be scaled up considerably, but would need to increase by 267% by the year 2020 in order to meet the projected shortfall in productivity from natural fisheries.

The Abuja Declaration calls for aquaculture to be developed in a "sustainable and environment friendly manner compatible with the rational use of land and water resources."

Traditional fishing vessels silhouetted against grey ocean

It also calls for improvements to the governance of African fisheries, for the conservation and protection of crucial marine habitats, and for the promotion of trade and market opportunities, both within Africa and with other continents.

The Abuja summit, organised under the auspices of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), is one ingredient in the global Fish for All initiative launched in 2002.

It is a 10-year project aiming to resolve some of the urgent issues associated with fishing.

These include:

  • how production can be increased when the majority of fish caught come from stocks which are already depleted
  • how supplies to the poor can be maintained when scarcity is driving prices upwards
  • and whether climate change can be turned into an opportunity rather than a threat to fish.

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