This unscrupulous fishing practice also exacerbates the problem of overfishing because IUU vessels even operates in marine protected areas where a total fishing ban has been imposed. It is difficult to estimate precisely the total catch from pirate fishing.
Researchers are engaged in the painstaking process of collating data from various countries’ fisheries control agencies, experts’ estimates, trade figures and findings of independent research expedition’s in order to arrive at an approximate figure of the total IUU catch. As this is a black market, estimates are bound to be unreliable.
Some experts put the annual figure at around 11 million tonnes; some suggest that it may be higher than 26 million tonnes. It has been established that the main reason why IUU is of particularly critical issue today is that many fish stocks have already been overexploited by legal fishing activities.
The situation off the west coast of Africa is particularly critical. According to research, IUU accounts for an estimated 40% of fish caught—the highest level worldwide. A fisheries expert described this situation as ‘disastrous’ for a region’s already overexploited fish stocks.
An EU estimate reckoned that Sierra Leone is losing about 30 million USD to illegal fishing. It is against this backdrop that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has stepped up measures aimed at curbing the nefarious practice. Among them is the on-going installation of forty Transponders (a radio/radar transceiver that automatically transmits electrical signals) on board registered fishing vessels.
According to the head of fisheries Protection Unit in the ministry, Victor Hamusa Kargbo, the exercise which will last for two months will provide an opportunity for the ministry to ascertain or verify positions of the vessels, thereby keeping record of their daily activities. He thanked fishing companies who have benefited from the process and urged others to make the best use of what he called a “golden opportunity” or face the full penalty of the law.
He also mentioned the installation of an Automatic Information System (AIS), procurement of a state of the art patrol vessel, establishment of a Joint Maritime Committee and Community Management Associations as some of the other measures his ministry has put in place to address illegal fishing.