West Africa Restoring Healthy Ocean Habitats
As the world celebrated World Environment Day on June 5th, countries in West Africa looked to continue their work to preserve fish ecosystems and ocean habitats that are currently under threat.

Oceans provide food for over 1 billion people globally and provide income for 200 million people in developing countries. Along the coastal regions of West Africa, fishing practices provide half of the fish catch for the entire continent; fish is a source of income and nutrition in West Africa, especially for the poor. The World Bank says that fishing earns these West African countries approximately $4.9 billion per year. As a result, GDP has increased at the national level and provides local communities with an income and greater food security.

However, the marine sources and habitats that support them are being threatened by weak management, declining fish stocks, local exploitation and harmful fishing practices. In addition, foreign industrial ships stalk African coasts and steal fish stocks. To combat this, in 2009 the World Bank launched the West African Regional Fisheries Program (WARFP), which helps governments strengthen ocean management. WARFP has four main areas of focus: good governance and sustainable fisheries management, reducing illegal fishing, increasing the contribution of marine resources to the local economy, and coordination, monitoring and evaluation, and program management. The program helps communities in Ghana, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

The program has helped people in these countries to successfully achieve national, regional and local reforms that educate and empower fishing communities to work together and share their resources. By stamping out illegal fishing in Sierra Leone, creating community-based monitoring in Liberia and encouraging locals to engage in fishing in Senegal, World Bank programs have aided in the fight to preserve and maintain the environment and ocean resources that are so vital to fishing.

“Developing partnerships between countries along the coast of Africa is key to promoting the recovery of Africa’s fish resources and preserving the ocean environment,” said Colin Bruce, World Bank Director for Regional Integration. In order to continue protecting West Africa’s marine environment, research and management programs need to continue, which in turn will secure a better future for the fishing communities of the region.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: World Bank, WARFP
Photo: Knowing South Africa