The aid funding has been awarded to strengthen governance and management of fisheries in both countries and to improve the handling of landed catch in major ports and other selected sites to reduce post-harvest wastage and increase fishermen’s earnings.
Mauritania and Guinea each have important potential for fisheries development as part of wider international efforts by agencies including the FAO and the World Bank to support sustainable fisheries development and improve food security throughout the whole of West Africa.
Mauritania’s EEZ off the country’s Atlantic seaboard has fishing grounds containing large marine sources that are ranked among the most productive in the world.
Although the FAO estimates that more than 80% of the country’s geographical territory is arid desert, Mauritania’s 755km coastline - stretching from Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara in the north to Senegal in the south - offers important economic development opportunities to its 3.9 million population in addition to earning hard currency through exports and ensuring domestic food security.
Fisheries already provides Mauritania with one of its major foreign exchange earnings through fishing licensing agreements with a number of countries including the European Union (EU), Japan, Russia and nearby Morocco and Algeria.
Mauritania is the largest of the EU’s Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) partners worldwide under its current multi-species FPA arrangements with Brussels.
The present six year renewable FPA agreement started in 2006, replacing previous arrangements after the first fisheries agreement was concluded between Mauritania and the EU in 1987.
Recently, on 15 July 2015, following lengthy negotiations, the EU and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania initialled a new four year Protocol to the present FPA. The new protocol allows EU vessels to fish in Mauritania’s waters under improved operational conditions for shrimp, demersal fish, tuna and small pelagic fish.
The protocol provides for EU vessels to take an overall catch of 281,500 tonnes each year. In addition to payments for catches made by the EU fleet, the EU has agreed to pay a financial contribution of €59.1m annually to the FPA partnership. Out of this sum €4.1m will be used to support local fishing communities in Mauritania.
Tuna and shrimp are the main target of the EU fleet in Mauritania’s waters. Octopus are another important fisheries export.
Under Category 3 of the new Protocol, up to 25 purse seiners are permitted to fish for tuna each year catching a maximum of 12,500 tonnes each, while up to 15 pole-and-line and surface longliners are permitted to catch a maximum of 7,500 tonnes each annually.
Shrimp are dealt with under Category 1 of the new protocol, which permits up to 25 vessels annually to fish for crustaceans other than crab and spiny lobsters, catching a maximum of 5,000 tonnes each.
Other fishery species are dealt with under separate categories. Under Category 2 a maximum of six black hake non-freezer trawlers and bottom longliners are permitted to catch a maximum of 6,000 tonnes each annually, while up to six vessels fishing for demersal species other than black hake using fishing gear other than trawls are permitted to catch a maximum of 3,000 tonnes each annually.
Meanwhile, under Category 6 a maximum of 19 pelagic freezer trawlers are permitted to catch up to 225,000 tonnes in total annually, although the total allowance permits up to two non-pelagic vessels to catch a maximum of 15,000 tonnes each annually, which would be deducted from the Category 6 pelagic freezer trawler allowance.
Most of the EU catch and fish caught by other nation’s vessels in Mauritania’s waters are exported direct. According to fishing industry experts only 5% to 10% of the marine fisheries catch of licensed foreign fishing fleets is landed in Mauritania, which means that about 90% to 95% of these fleets’ catch is exported direct to Europe and other overseas markets.
Fishing license fees provide an important source of income to Mauritania which relies on natural resources for a major share of its hard currency income. However, developing local value added processing could generate more export earnings than simply issuing fishing licenses.
The FAO and other international agencies continue to urge the government to expand the fisheries sector to include fish processing and other value added activities onshore including tuna canning, loining and other value added processing to stimulate wider economic development.
Currently little processing or other value added activities take place after the catch is landed onshore, according to the FAO, other than the small share of the catch which is filleted or smoked in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott and minor, traditional value added processing in the capital and fishing villages along the south coast.
According to government figures, the estimated value of primary fisheries production in 2011 was US$179 million for marine artisanal fishing and $563 million for marine industrial fishing – giving a total of $742 million which contributed 3.4% to overall GDP.
Mauritania’s fisheries exports make an important contribution to foreign exchange earnings – during 2008 to 2011 fish exports accounted for 20% to 27% of total exports in value annually, not including oil.
Although fisheries are an important source of revenue for the government, the industry does not create many jobs, the organisation says, as most processing is done in other countries.
The fisheries sector currently employs about 53,000 people, according to the Mauritanian Research Centre on Marine Resources (IMROP) of which about 60% of the jobs are connected to the artisanal fisheries sector, while around one quarter of the jobs are through indirect employment.
Almost one third of fisheries related jobs in Mauritania are occupied by women, the research centre said in a recent report.
Although fisheries accounts for just 3% of national employment at present, there are wide local variations in fisheries related employment.
In Nouadhibou Tax Free Zone which was created in 2013, for example, 29% of total employment in Nouadhibou city is in fisheries related occupations.
Nouadhibou Port is the base for most foreign vessels operating in Mauritanian waters. Although fish handling and unloading facilities are inadequate at present, the government has said it will increase investment to upgrade the port’s facilities.
To assist development of sustainable fisheries in Mauritania and Guinea, the World Bank recently awarded three development grants totalling US$29m combined to both countries under its nine-country multi-phase West Africa Regional Fisheries Programme series of projects.
Mauritania which has the larger fishing industry will receive two grants totalling $19 million while Guinea will receive a single aid grant worth $10m.
The grant package awarded to Mauritania and Guinea is the fourth in a series of World Bank aid grants for fisheries development schemes being implemented from 2010 to 2020 across the West Africa region.
Countries that have received World Bank fisheries development funding already are Cape Verde, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone in 2010; Guinea-Bissau in 2011; and Ghana in 2012.
The World Bank is planning to fund another West Africa fisheries development project in 2016 which is expected to include Ivory Coast and possibly Gambia.
Mauritania will use its World Bank fisheries grant to improve the present management of the fisheries sector to reduce current overexploitation of fisheries and to ensure sustainable fisheries sector development in future.
Reports published by IMROP suggest that overfishing of assessed fish stocks in Mauritania’s EEZ rose from 9% in 1993 to 67% in 2011. Latest figures published by the centre show the proportion of overexploited fish stocks in 2014 was 33%.
However, since the assessments are based on small numbers of stocks, the calculated percentage of over exploited stocks fluctuates considerably from year to year.
The efficiency of licensed industrial fishing fleets operating in Mauritania’s waters is one reason for overfishing, while the growth of Mauritania’s artisanal fishing fleet is another.
According to government figures, the number of artisanal fishing vessels, primarily canoes, increased by 75% from 2007 to 2013, with the number of canoes rising from 4,000 to 7,000 during the period.
Almost 450,000 people will benefit from the World Bank-funded fisheries project in Mauritania and Guinea, according to the Bank. These will consist of about 242,000 men and about 202,000 women, the Bank estimates.
People benefitting from the projects will include artisanal and industrial fishermen, processing plant workers and people who sell fish and fishery products.
In addition, those benefitting from the projects will include those working for government bodies and agencies in Mauritania and Guinea along with other organisations and institutions involved in the fishing industry in the two countries.
The project will consist of four basic components which will be similar for both countries. However, the focus will differ in each country due to difference in the level of fisheries development and the nature of the local fishing industry.
Mauritania, for example, is mostly export orientated in its fisheries development while Guinea’s fishing industry supports substantial domestic fish consumption.
The project’s first component will involve building the capacity of the government and fishing industry stakeholders in Mauritania and Guinea to develop and implement policies and systems that ensure fisheries resources are used in a sustainable, socially equitable economically profitable manner.
This will include assisting both countries to strengthen their fishing vessel registration systems to control fishing capacity and to introduce new fisheries management schemes that target fisheries and fishing communities to ensure sustainable catch levels are followed, and to develop and implement fishing management plans.
The project will also involve improving fisheries-related data collection along with data compilation and data dissemination in a transparent manner.
IUU fishing in Guinea’s waters will be supported by support to strengthen the country’s fisheries Monitoring, Control and Surveillance systems. In addition the government will be provided legal assistance to bring its national fisheries legislation into line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, particularly Article 73 dealing with foreign fishing vessels and crews detained in a country’s EEZ.
This component does not include Mauritania which already has established a fisheries surveillance programme.
The two other project components will involve using some of the grant aid in Mauritania and Guinea to improve handling and storage facilities in the countries’ major fishing ports to reduce post-harvest fish losses. In addition, assistance will be provided to both countries to improve their fisheries project implementation capacity in the future to handle new investment in fisheries infrastructure, and to increase their regional coordination with fisheries authorities and institutions other West African countries.
Meanwhile, data concerning the state of Guinea’s fisheries sector is in shorter supply than for other West African countries with more developed fishing industries. However, as neighbouring countries improve fisheries regulation and monitoring, IUU fishing is likely to move into less regulated Guinean waters increasing the need for the country to improve fisheries management and protect its valuable resources.
Until now insufficient studies have been carried out to determine the health of Guinea’s fish stocks. However, the estimated marine fish catch in the country’s EEZ is between 150,000 to 200,000 tons per year.
Marine fisheries in Guinea are almost entirely artisanal in nature at present but have the potential to develop with greater investment in modern fishing vessel and port facilities.
Guinea has a population of about 11.8 million people. According to a recent FAO report, marine fisheries employs about 32,000 people in Guinea of which 19,000 are men and 13,000, over one third, are women.
Fishermen occupy 58% of jobs in the marine fisheries sector while 42% of occupations are involved in fish processing. Almost all the country’s fishermen are male while women occupy most of the fish processing jobs.
The total value of primary fisheries production in 2010 was US$215m of which marine fisheries represented $186m, the bulk of which was generated by marine artisanal fishing.
The value added by post-harvest fish processing in 2010 was $39m which contributed 0.7% to overall GDP.