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1.1 Aims of the Overview
1.2 Summary
1.3 Physical and Socio-economic Features of the Region

1.1 Aims of the Overview

The intention of this overview is to contribute towards achieving one of the objectives of the CECAF Project, which is "to strengthen the capacity of participating countries for management of the resources and coordinated development planning". The overview does not aim to be a comprehensive account of the state of development of the Region's fisheries, nor does it aim to give equal emphasis to all items which are necessarily important to optimal resource management or development planning. Nevertheless an attempt is made to highlight certain important features which presently, and might possibly in the future, have an impact on the state of fishery development and planning in the Region.

It is hoped that the overview will be of particular use to fishery development planners concerned with the fishery sector of individual countries of the CECAF Region. Some of the situations and problems described and analysed will be applicable to a number of countries and it is intended that some of the conclusions and opinions expressed will stimulate further analysis and discussion during the course of the CECAF Project. Much data of importance for the analysis of a number of development strategies are presently inadequate or not available and, in many cases, it has been necessary to use judgements in resolving conflicting sources of information and in establishing a number of basic assumptions. A number of such judgements might prove mistaken, but it is hoped that the structure of the discussion presented is sufficiently clear to enable further analysis and planning to proceed, and to be constantly reviewed and improved.

1.2 Summary

In comparison with other parts of the world, the CECAF Region has a relatively small population of 145 million spread over a vast land area at the low density of 18 persons per square kilometre. However the area and population of each country vary greatly and, for example, the population of Nigeria dominates the region with over 40 percent of the total. There are also wide disparities among the countries in respect to the structure of their economies, the degree of industrialisation achieved, and the abundance of natural resources. Despite these differences, the countries, with few exceptions, are characterised by low per caput incomes, low personal consumption, low levels of education and health, and low standards of living in general.

About two million tons of the present approximate total CECAF catch of 3.5 millions are caught by foreign-based vessels and never landed at coastal ports prior to shipment to other markets. Over half of the catch of foreign-based vessels is taken by vessels of the Soviet Union.

The most abundant fish resources of the Region are concentrated off a relatively lowly populated coastline stretching from southern Morocco to Sierra Leone, and the principal species caught are sardinella and horse mackerel. Around the coast there are some localised stocks of high value species, such as shrimp and cephalopods, which, although caught in small quantities, form the basis of important locally - based fishing operations. Brackish water fisheries, together with aquaculture, account for only a small percentage of total landings. It is not expected that the total catch of the Region will rise as sharply in the future as in the recent past because many important stocks have now reached their upper limit of exploitation. In order to maintain high fish catches, there is an urgent need to improve the collection of biological data to aid stock assessment and resource management.

The number of canoes and their catch in most countries appears to be increasing, although, as a percentage of the total catch, this artisanal fishery now lands less than in the mid-1960's. The number of inshore and nearwater fishing vessels is expected to increase and the catch from these vessels will probably continue to rise faster than the catch from the artisanal (canoe) fishery.

Morocco and Mauritania have the largest export trade yet only a small percentage of their exports goes to the rest of Africa. Senegal has a small but growing trade in the export of frozen sardinella to Gulf of Guinea countries, and Gambia cooperates with Ghanaian interests to send frozen fish to Ghana. The bulk of fish imported into the Region, which consists mainly of frozen fish, is landed by vessels of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe which catch the fish both in CECAF and ICSEAF waters. The principal importing countries are Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo and Zaïre, for these countries do not have abundant fish resources within their fishing zones.

Less fish per caput is generally eaten in rural areas than urban areas of the Region and this is understandable in view of the ease of fish distribution and marketing in towns and cities rather than rural areas. Expenditure on fish as a percentage of food expenditure is higher for low rather than high income groups, and this indicates the importance of fish to the nutritional intake of poorer people. Per caput consumption of fish as a percentage of animal protein intake is high relative to the world average and, by region, only in Southeast Asia does fish comprise a higher percentage of all animal proteins consumed per caput.

The structure of government institutions varies between countries but generally there is one 'Service' or 'Department' in each country which is charged with planning and formulating government fishery objectives and development strategies, fishery research, and the implementation of programmes and regulations. Some countries have established state-owned companies which are directly involved in fishing and fish marketing. Most countries, through government institutions, have taken advantage of multilateral and bilateral aid to assist fishery development and it is expected that such aid and cooperation will continue.

Of particular importance to the future of fishery development and planning in the Region is the increasing control by coastal countries over adjacent waters by extension of the fishing limits. This extended national jurisdiction may well result in only a marginal decline in foreign operations; it could, on the other hand, accelerate the trend towards special (licensing or other) arrangements between coastal states and foreign fleets, allied more and more with the requirements of greater landings at the ports of coastal states by such foreign vessels and the development of more locally-based processing and export industries and similar forms of "added-value" enterprises to the benefit of the coastal states.

It is hazardous to draw firm conclusions from the scattered data available on fish prices but it does seem that, in general, ex-vessel and ex-canoe prices have not been increasing at a faster rate than the consumer price index and that fishermen's incomes might now have less purchasing power than previously The impact of increased imports of frozen fish in a number of countries appears to have had a depressing influence on prices to the disadvantage of rural artisanal fishermen. However this phenomenon needs further verification and study before definitive conclusions can be drawn. International prices for certain fish and marine products have consistently increased and yielded improved profits to persons fishing such species as shrimps and cephalopods. The recent price drop of fish meal has however had a damaging influence on the operations of reduction plants in Morocco and Mauritania. Further data need to be collected on the influence of prices on fishermen's incomes, on the returns on investment in fishing, and on measures which can be taken to encourage employment in the fishing sector.

Local fish supplies required to meet the demand presently approximate 1.5 million tons and, by 1990, the supply required is conservatively estimated at 3 million tons. Due to a possible maximum catch of about 4.2 million tons from the Region's resources and the increased demand for fish from Europe, it is probable that local demand will not be wholly met from local supplies. On the assumption that total exports in 1990 will approximate 1,084,600 tons and that only 395,500 of that total will be sent to other CECAF countries, it is apparent that much of the 655,100 tons which CECAF countries will require to import can only be met from supplies caught in ICSEAF and other fishing regions. On the assumption that the exports from the CECAF Region will be of a higher value than the fish and fish products imported, the Region overall may have a favourable balance in the value of fish trade in 1990. Nevertheless the value of fish imported into Zaire, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and some other coastal countries will be appreciable.

The approach to planning varies markedly between countries. In some countries the national plan is little more than a broad guideline of the government's development objectives. In other countries the plan is a quite detailed document of the government's objectives, strategies and planned capital expenditure. There is no rigid centrally planned economy in the Region and all plans are similar with regard to their extreme flexibility.

The objectives of any national fishery plan generally involve, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the country concerned, (i) fish resource management, (ii) the need to provide adequate fish supplies to meet demand, and (iii) balanced socio-economic development of the fishery sector to meet national socio-economic needs. In order to determine the priority of the objectives and formulate the supporting development strategies, it is essential that adequate data be collected and analysed.

At present governments exercise negligeable controls on fishing and resource management is generally marked more by its absence than its presence. Few countries have analysed the production targets which might be obtained from their own or foreign resources and what the local demand for fish might be in, say, 1990. Many countries are encouraging investment in their fishery sector but few have analysed the effect this action will have on rural and urban incomes, employment, foreign exchange costs/benefits, national wealth, or indeed on future resource management needs and production targets. On the basis of a rather subjective analysis undertaken in this overview, it is concluded that the development strategies of principal concern to fishery sectors of the Region are, in varying orders of priority, depending on the country, the need to expand locally - based fishing fleets with vessels of up to 40 metres length, an increase in small-scale fishing activities, and the need to improve processing (including freezing and cold storage) facilities often linked to promoting export markets.

1.3 Physical and Socio-economic Features of the Region

The Eastern Central Atlantic Region extends from the Gibraltar Straits to the Congo River, which is nearly 10,000 kilometres of coastline length. The coastal climate is generally characterised by sub-tropical upwelling conditions in the north (foggy and mild atmosphere along the sea border, cool and nutrient-rich waters), desert and savannah conditions further south, and tropical conditions near the Equator. The coastal belt is mainly low-lying and, along the Gulf of Guinea, there are numerous lagoons behind a narrow sand - bar.

There are 20 independent countries in the Region, and two groups of islands, Madeira and Canaries, which are Portuguese and Spanish respectively. By far the largest country in regard to land area is Zaïre with 2.3 million square kilometres. Mauritania is also very large with one million square kilometres of land. After Nigeria (933,000 square kilometres) come Cameroon and Morocco with over 500,000 square kilometres. Most other CECAF countries cover less than 300,000 square kilometres.

Apart from the population of Nigeria, nearing 62 million, Zaïre with 20 million and Morocco with 15 million, no country has more than 10 million persons, and the Region is characterised by a high number of countries with small populations.

The low population density in most countries, and naturally in rural areas, increases the cost of providing minimum public services to the whole population. However the coastal area of most countries is relatively densely populated compared with the inland areas. It is also on the coastline that all capitals, except Yaounde, Brazzaville and Kinshasa, and principal cities are located. This coastal location of urban centres gives special significance to the role of marine fish in helping meet the food requirements. In addition the population of all countries, and the urban centres in particular, is growing rapidly at about 2.6 percent per year.

General indicators to the state of the economy of some countries are presented in Table 1.1. These indicators show that exports and imports are satisfactorily in balance in Mauritania, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Togo, Cameroon and Congo, and that the balance of payments is in substantial surplus in such large oil-producing countries as Nigeria and Gabon. Moderate payments deficits are present in Morocco and Gambia, and heavier deficits are present in Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ghana.

Table 1.1 Economic indicators (1974)



US$ million

US$ million

GNP per caput2/
US$ (1973)





















Cape Verde


· · ·

· · ·


Guinea Bissau


· · ·

· · ·




· · ·

· · ·


Sierra Leone










Ivory Coast






























Equatorial Guinea


· · ·

· · ·







Sao Tome and Principe


· · ·

· · ·












Total or Average






1/ IMF estimates
2/ IBRD estimates
Although GNP per caput is an unreliable guide to the wealth of a country, because it fails to distinguish between income distribution and unquantifiable living benefits, it does indicate to some degree differences in order of magnitude of living standards between countries. Using the GNP per caput scale, it is apparent that Gabon is by far the wealthiest country in the Region, with a per caput GNP of $1,310 and Benin and Guinea are the poorest countries with a per caput GNP of $110.

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