The second day of the West Africa capacity-building workshop saw Dr. Rashid Sumaila give an engaging lecture on the economics of fisheries. The workshop is being coordinated by Dr. Dyhia Belhabib and is funded through the generous support of the MAVA Foundation.
Sumaila discussed several fundamental principles — like supply and demand, externalities, and incentives — and applied them to real world examples in West Africa.
Sumaila also discussed how fishing subsidies — the bad ones, at least — can negatively affect fisheries management policies, and how this has been an issue for a long time. For instance, in the seminal book Wealth of Nations, legendary philosopher/economist Adam Smith talked at length about fishers off the coast of the UK during the 1700’s — who were, as Sumaila summarizes, “not fishing for fish but fishing for subsidies.”
Fisheries economics is important for many West African countries, especially Sierra Leone, Senegal, and The Gambia, where entire coastal communities rely on fish catches to sustain their livelihoods — and yet, where illegal fishing, often by foreign fleets, is devastating their ability to continue fishing as they’ve done for hundreds of years.
Josephus Mamie is from Sierra Leone and works for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, where he is responsible for supervising statistics data collection and analysis, and implementation of fisheries policies. He is at the workshop to broaden his knowledge and connect with different researchers confronting a spectrum of issues.
“It’s always good to learn about new initiatives and to work with renowned scientists like Rashid Sumaila and Daniel Pauly,” he said.
In Sierra Leone, fishing is becoming less economically viable due to the scourge of illegal fishing. Mamie believes Sierra Leone needs to take concrete steps to confront the issue.
“We need a national plan of action to combat illegal fishing. But right now we have limited capacity, capability, and capital to address it,” he said.
Sumaila agrees. The fishing sector in West Africa is in trouble and today thousands of fishers are unemployed, and all too often their livelihood has been ‘stolen’ by foreign fleets. In fact, many fishers are migrating north in search of employment in Europe — a dangerous and often disappointing journey.
Sumaila believes researchers in West African countries need better data and better arguments to pressure their governments to implement more effective policies. He hopes that after the two week workshop, many of the researchers present will have better tools to move that conversation forward.