New organization FarFish to critique European fishing in Africa

Published on
June 28, 2017

A new project launched with funding from the European Union is aiming to improve sustainability and profitability of the European fishing fleet operating outside of the continent’s waters.

FarFish, a new E.U. Horizon 2020 project formed through the cooperation of 21 organizations and agencies across Europe, Africa, and South America, began earlier this month, with the immediate goal of reviewing E.U. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements with countries in Africa. Initially, FarFish will study the operations of European fishing groups in Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal and the Seychelles, as well as the international waters in the southeast and southwest Atlantic Ocean.

About 20 percent of the catch of the European fishing fleet is obtained from non-European sea area, with a portion of that catch coming as a result of E.U. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements. While the agreements have given legal access to European fleets fishing in international marine areas and within the jurisdiction of these coastal states, they have proved controversial due to these countries inability to sustainably manage their fisheries, according to FarFish coordinator Jónas Rúnar Viðarsson.

“These agreements have been controversial, especially on the west coast of Africa. In response to this criticism, the Horizon 2020 research program has decided to support research and development efforts to promote improvements in this area; that is the story of FarFish's mission," Viðarsson said.

In its initial work in Africa, FarFish will study the fishing of species including tuna, hake, mackerel, sardines, octopus, and shrimp, investigating whether these species are being exploited at or below corresponding maximum sustainable yields. The research will advance biological knowledge through collection of data on ecological, economic and socially important aspects of these fisheries, incorporating geographic, economic and cultural contexts.

A second phase of the project will include working with local stakeholders to create accessible and adaptable fisheries management tools within the case study areas. Additionally, efforts will be made to increase the responsibility of the European fleet for area use and disclosure of information, FarFish said. 

“Overlaying the collection of important data and the development of improved management tools, the FarFish project has a strong focus on fisheries management knowledge creation and capacity building among stakeholders in the coastal states and the European fishing fleet,” the organization said.

Viðarsson said he hopes to bring more clarity to seafood supply lines to Europe, which are currently complex and may hide impacts of IUU fishing in places with poorer regulatory conditions.

"It is clear that this is an extremely important issue; that fisheries are managed in a sustainable way no matter where the fish are harvested,” Viðarsson said. “It is important to keep in mind that this project is addressing issues within a complex system. Many of these fisheries have been plagued by unregulated fishing, which can have a detrimental effect on the status of important stocks and livelihoods of people in coastal countries both outside and within Europe.” 

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