Monitoring deep water fish stocks off West African coast
Countries to report on fishing of non-tuna species inhabiting "sea mounts"
31 May 2004, Rome -- An FAO regional fishing body has decided that its members should begin reporting on capture levels of non-tuna species taken in high-seas waters off the western coast of Africa.
The decision was announced on 27 May after a three day meeting in Dakar, Senegal, of FAO's Fishery Committee of the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF).
The body cited the fragility of the undersea habitats that these species depend on and their slow growth rates as reasons for its resolution.
Tuna dominant, but interest in other species growing
In the high seas part of the CECAF area -- those waters outside the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of West Africa's coastal countries -- fishing focuses primarily on large tunas and tuna-like species, with skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna together accounting for around 89% of declared tuna catches.
Management of these tuna stocks falls under the purview of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, an inter-governmental fishery organization.
Currently, the only high-seas non-tuna species of commercial interest reported in the CECAF area is alfonsino, which live on underwater elevations known as sea mounts. The CECAF area includes ten such sea mounts.
While current catch levels of the alfonsino and similar deep-water fishes in the CECAF zone are low, there is growing commercial interest in these species, according to FAO, prompting the decision by CECAF countries to begin submitting annual reports on high-seas fishing activities for non-tuna species.
"Any exploitation of these species should be carefully designed, taking into account the very low level of sustainable yield of these fish populations and the isolation of sea-mount benthic ecosystems," said a CECAF report.
Keeping an eye on fragile deep sea fish
CECAF will use the information to track the well-being of these slow-growing fish stocks on a year-to-year basis.
Monitoring will occur in those waters under CECAF's jurisdiction, which roughly encompasses an area extending west from the African coast to the mid Atlantic, starting from the northern tip of Morocco and ending at the Angola/Democratic Republic of the Congo border.
CECAF members include: Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, the European Community, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Liberia, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo and the United States.
This roster includes FAO member countries in Africa whose territory borders the waters under the Committee's competence, as well as other FAO member or associate-member nations fishing in the area.
CECAF does not have any regulatory power, although it can adopt recommendations on management issues, such as last week's resolution.
The Committee was established in 1967 as a subsidiary body of the FAO charged with promoting sustainable development of marine resources, responsible fisheries management, and regional cooperation on fishing policy issues.
Information Officer, FAO
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