Stakeholders in the artisanal fishing industry across Africa have begun discussions on ways to salvage the continent's dwindling fisheries sector in a conference in Tangier, Morocco.
It is being attended by representatives from 18 member countries of the Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation among African States Bordering the Atlantic Ocean (ATLAFCO).
The participants include academicians, fishery experts, representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs), fishers, as well as journalists.
The three-day conference, which is on the theme: "Artisanal fisheries and aquaculture — Major components of inclusive socio-economic development", is in line with the declaration of 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA).
It is part of activities under the global action plan aimed at implementing a dynamic strategy capable of strengthening the capacity of actors involved in artisanal fisheries and aquaculture in a sustainable way.
It is also to inspire promoters of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture, including national administrations, non-governmental organisations, CSOs, private companies, development organisations and intergovernmental bodies.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) was designated as the lead agency within the UN (IYAFA 2022) at the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly.
For the purposes of coordinating the development and implementation of activities of IYAFA, the FAO Secretariat of IYAFA prepared a global action plan for the international year of fisheries and small-scale aquaculture in 2022.
The declaration of IYAFA is also to coordinate the development and implementation of activities to raise awareness of key messages on small-scale fishers while ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources and sharing of accessible information on artisanal fishery.
It is also aimed at strengthening science-policy interface with other relevant stakeholders, while promoting gender equality, equity and resilience in artisanal fishery.
The Executive Secretary of ATLAFCO, Mr Abdelouahed Benabbou, said the role of artisanal fishers in food security could not be downplayed, since they provided jobs and safe and nutritious food for people across the world.
He said even though 200 million people depended on fish for protein, which is also a source of livelihood for many others, artisanal fishery continued to be plagued by the lack of appropriate gear, inadequate fish, difficult access to markets and low participation of women in fishery governance.
An expert in fisheries at the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), Dr Mohamed Seisay, said African states were committed to braving the odds and working with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources.
An official of ATLAFCO, Mr Abdennaji Laamrich, said the global action plan hinged on seven pillars — economic, social and environmental sustainability, governance, food security and nutrition, gender equality and equity and resilience.
Participants expressed hope that the conference would be the beginning of a renewed commitment to redeem artisanal fishery on the continent.