The popular bony fish are being fished on a huge scale in Africa
The International Union for Conservation of Nature published a report today that warns of an imminent catastrophe for fish species as well as a potential food security crisis for up to 400 million people who rely on them as diet staples along the west coast of Africa.
Scientists studying the conservation status of 1,288 bony fish species in an age when overfishing, pollution, habitat damage and climate change all pose ominous threats have made worrying discoveries.
In the west, sardines have garnered a reputation for being a ‘super food’
Fish provide a major source of animal protein for coastal communities
Inger Andersen of IUCN
It is one of three sardine species all considered overfished within the region.
The cassava croaker has declined by up to 60 per cent over the last decade and is now listed as endangered, again due to overfishing. Local subsistence fishermen could be badly affected if croaker stocks decline.
Another major concern highlighted by the study is the severely limited scope for fisheries surveillance and enforcement in the African waters, allowing both illegal fish and overfishing.
He said: “The growing extinction threat to fish off the central and western coast of Africa could seriously undermine food security across the region, impacting on progress towards the first two Sustainable Development Goals in addition, of course, to undermining SDG14 on life under water.
“Fish provide a major source of animal protein for coastal communities, which account for around 40 per cent of this region’s population.
Sardine fishing is at the core of many nations’ economies
Beth Polidoro, co-coordinator of the IUCN Marine Fishes Red List Authority, said: “This report highlights the need for improved knowledge and monitoring of marine biodiversity in the region.
“Many nations are still lacking in adequate marine or coastal protected areas to safeguard marine resources, while many of the current protected areas are in need of increased capacity, funding, infrastructure and governance for effective enforcement and conservation.”