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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

EU states broke law by allowing fishing off Gambia, Equatorial Guinea

Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italy broke European Union law by authorizing vessels to fish in the territorial waters off Gambia and Equatorial Guinea, according to the findings of conservation group Oceana published on Tuesday. Fishing vessels from Europe and Asia are drawn to West Africa, particularly for high-value tuna. Many ships operate legally but West African states are vulnerable to illegal fishing because of corruption and a lack of maritime policing capacity. Using data from their onboard tracking devices, Oceana found that 19 vessels illegally spent over 31,000 hours in Gambia and Equatorial Guinea’s exclusive economic zones - waters which extend 200 nautical miles from the coast - from April 2012 to August 2015. “Oceana was unable to document the fishing effort of vessels not transmitting ... therefore, it is likely that the prevalence of fishing may be even higher,” the report said. Illegal fishing costs West African economies $2.3 billion a year, according to a recent study published in Frontiers in Marine Science journal. Africa’s fisheries and aquaculture sector was estimated at more than $24 billion in 2011, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Both Gambia and Equatorial Guinea negotiated official access agreements with the EU. Such deals tighten oversight and allow European boats to only fish for surplus stocks. However, the requirements of the deals have not been met, so they are considered dormant. European vessels are not allowed to operate in waters subject to dormant agreements. The ships, according to Oceana, had signed private agreements with authorities in the two states. But the European Commission twice notified EU fisheries ministries, in January 2014 and again in April 2015, that they could not fish after agreements go dormant, even under private deals

Source: Reuters