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Ivory Coast’s fishermen land-bound to save declining stocks

On a beach south of Ivory Coast‘s economic hub Abidjan, a group of fishermen are spending the day sitting in the shade and playing cards. Normally, they would be out on their boats long canoes known as pirogues — and hunting the seas. But this month, they have been banned from doing so to help the country’s badly depleted fisheries recover.

“We can’t do anything, we can’t do anything at all,” said Patrick Ange Yao, a fisherman since the turn of the century. We sit here, we chat,” he said. But “we don’t even know where to go — we just go around in circles.” Overfishing compounded by climate change has left the waters off the West African state alarmingly void of a decent catch.

In May, the government announced an “annual biological rest period” in the nation’s 200,000-square-kilometre (77,000-square-mile) Exclusive Economic Zone.

The measure entails a ban on trawling for a range of commercial species, including red tuna, sardinella, anchovies and threadfin. Artisanal fishermen are being banned in July and “industrial and semi-industrial” vessels in July and August. Frozen fish brings in just 3,000 CFA francs ($5) per day, Donco and her friend Alice Koffi explained.

By comparison, a successful month between July and December catching sea bream or a species called forkbeard can bring in up to 500,000 francs. Earnings from a catch are divided up between the fishermen, who usually work in teams of five.

They typically take home a salary higher than the country’s minimum wage of 75,000 francs. Ivory Coast is not the only West African nation with sickly fisheries.

Amnesty International reported in May that chronic over-fishing, especially by foreign-owned industrial trawlers, was having a “devastating” impact on the region, costing The Gambia, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone $2.3 billion per year in losses.

But the interdiction has come without any aid, leaving families of small-scale fishermen in dire straits. Yao and other men in Aleya, a village wedged between Abidjan and the sea, said they came from the Alladian ethnic group, a community that for generations has lived from fishing.

They could not imagine doing anything else.  We do the fishing and our wives sell the fish, so when (fishing) stops, everything comes to a halt,” said Yao. Some of their spouses are buying frozen fish and hawking it to try to make a living, but “we earn nothing,” said Gladys Donco, the wife of a fisherman and a trader for 32 years.

Source: News365

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