LETTERS.

Position:Letter to the Editor
 
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AFRICA'S FISHING CRISIS

I read with great interest Milan Veseley's report "Plundering Africa's sea wealth" in the African Business November 2000 issue. Much of the very considerable research that my company, Hart Nimrod (Bermuda) Ltd (HNBL), has been conducting would concur with Milan's findings and indeed the article's demand for a solution to the unrestricted fishing by international fleets within African Economic Exclusion Zones (EEZ's).

However, the article is diminished in its credibility by a lack of understanding about the Fisheries Management and Protection Programme that has been introduced in the Puntland state of Somalia. This has already had a dramatic effect on piracy attacks within the region, substantially reducing the attacks off the Somali coast from 12 in 1999 to two last year, both of which have been resolved without loss of life or a ransom being paid.

This is only a by product of actively patrolling territorial waters and EEZ's. The real effect is to know, control and licence what is going on in the country's EEZ. Along the Indian Ocean coastline of Africa, statistics were based on conjecture, limited and probably corrupt reporting and a scant understanding of the seasons and the fish resource.

Motorised speed-boats may be able to seize foreign trawlers in territorial waters but they cannot do so during the four months monsoon season, May - September, nor can they, or do they, have any effect on the fleets fishing, primarily for tuna and shark, 50-250 miles offshore.

What has been effected during the year 2000 in Puntland waters is an effective licence and protection regime. Only then can vessels be bought to task for fishing without a licence.

From the data HNBL has been developing, it is clear that well over 300 international purse-seiners, long-liners and trawlers are fishing off the East African coastline. Statistically they appear to be catching over $2m of tuna per vessel every month.

The African continent can effectively implement a fisheries management and protection programme, which can be self-sustaining both financially and operationally, but neighbouring countries need to be prepared to work in cooperation with one another especially on licensing migratory fishing.

However, African countries must act now before their fish resources are diminished to such a level that it no longer remains attractive for international fishing fleets to fish there.

Richard Bethell

Chief Executive Officer Hart Nimrod (Bermuda)...

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