Dossier de la Rédaction


More Security for Our Waterways

A strange fishing vessel has since last Wednesday been shored up in the Douala harbour after being impounded by the Cameroonian navy as it was carrying out illegal fishing activity within Cameroonian territorial waters off the coast of Limbe in the South-West Region.

What is particularly interesting about the fishing vessel is the impressive quantity of fish found on board. Initially determined by customs officials to be some tens of tons, officials of the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries in Douala, after verification of the vessel at the harbor, are rather talking of a much more impressive quantity which further betrays the impunity with which fishing boats come into the rich waters of our nation’s south-western coasts to fish.

In effect, the captured vessel was about three nautical miles from the authorized line; so right into Cameroonian territory! This is just one case, certainly among many who do business right into our waters and get off scot-free with their huge catches. Cameroon is currently facing numerous security challenges with the Boko Haram insurgency in the Far-North Region of the country being the main theatre of operations to keep the national territory safe from the sporadic attempts of this heartless sect. This can partly explain the absence of the kind of security presence necessary to keep poachers at bay.

But there is more to that than meets the eye. This kind of fishing is not an exclusively Cameroonian phenomenon. But investing in security in our high seas is a matter of urgency if the animal protein needs of the citizens have to be met.  For example, national demand for fish today is at about 400 000 tons while national production is staggering at about 182 000 tons with 180 000 coming from captured fishing or, simply put, fish harvested in the high seas off our coasts while a meager 2 000 tons come from ponds or fish harvested from internal waterways.

The situation will be difficult to reverse without revolutionary measures. Fishing off our coasts in the high seas is done with such sophistication that available control measures can hardly stop. The illegal vessels, in their rush to fish-and-go, harvest just about every available fish even right up to fingerlings, therefore breaking the ordinary life cycle which obviously cleanses entire areas of fish.

So, the danger is not just about reducing available quantities of fish, but also exterminating even the small fish that could guarantee fish availability for the future. In this situation, one would have rightfully imagined that a solution could come from inland fishing; but the ridiculous production figure of 2 000 tons is rather a laughing matter in the wake of the whopping national demand for fish of about 400 000 tons!

Assorted initiatives by the Ministry responsible for fishing to get Cameroonians more involved, at least in the less onerous inland fishing activity, have never yielded the expected results; otherwise production will not be that low. Even the 2 000 tons are the efforts, in the most part, of foreigners.

Foreigners from as far afield as Ghana or Mali are the main actors of the peripheral fishing activity on such inland waterways as the Sanaga around Monatele or the Benue at Lagdo. While government considers more proactive initiatives and even some stimulating measures, we must welcome the construction of the Limbe fishing academy as an important window of opportunity which can reverse present trends and help develop new interest in fishing activity around the country.

At the same time, government must consider partnering with other neighbouring countries as well as regional organizations in the likes of the Gulf of Guinea Commission to set up security outfits that can properly check the regular forays into our coasts by foreign fishermen

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