THE IMPORTANCE OF FISHING
Many people in Africa are dependent on fishing as a source of income, particularly those that live near large bodies of water like lakes and oceans. Fish is often the main source of protein (an important nutrient) for people, because it is normally cheaper than meat. Due to this, the demand for fish is increasing, leading to more being caught, and a problem called “overfishing”.
WHAT IS OVERFISHING?
Overfishing is the removal of a species of fish from its habitat, at a rate which means that more fish are being caught compared to the number of fish born each year. This means that the population cannot replace itself, and so reduces over time. In West Africa, over half of the fish stocks are overfished.
This can occur with small scale fishing (individual fishermen) and with large fishing vessels. Large scale fishing is normally worse for the environment. This is because they catch more fish and use destructive methods. In West African waters, most large scale fishing is done by foreign companies.
Overfishing can seem like a good idea because of the short term gains of selling more fish to make more money. However, the long term effects of overfishing result in less fish to catch in the future.
ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF OVERFISHING
When one species of fish undergoes overfishing, it’s population size reduces. The prey (type of animal that it eats) will increase in population, as it is not being eaten. The predator species (type of animal that eats the species) will have lost it’s food source, which means it might starve, and decrease in population. However, the predator may find another type of fish to eat, leading to population decreases for that fish. Overfishing of one species therefore causes many changes in the environment. Reduced overall species diversity and smaller fish sizes are also linked to overfishing.
SOCIAL EFFECTS OF OVERFISHING
Decreased fish stocks threaten the income sources of local fishermen, as they won’t be able to make enough money from catching fish. Some may have to find new jobs, such as farming.
If less fish are available, many will lose their main source of protein, which could worsen their health.
OVERFISHING IN SENEGAL
The White Grouper (also known as the Thiof) is a popular fish to catch in Senegal. However, due to overfishing, its population has decreased. To fix this, some local communities are setting and enforcing rules about fishing, which has been quite effective.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO STOP OVERFISHING
The government could set a maximum amount of fish that can be caught by each boat. They could also introduce more rules about when and where to fish. For example, popular breeding areas for fish could be protected, allowing young fish to grow without being caught. The government could also reduce foreign companies fishing in West African waters. Using nets with larger holes would also help reduce overfishing. It is important for the local community to help protect their local fish stocks.