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The Marine Stewardship Council is supporting fisheries in West Africa working towards sustainability.

Philanthropic conservation organisation the MAVA Foundation recently funded two multi-stakeholder projects, operating across five West African countries. Both projects aimed to help fisheries to improve the environmental performance of their fishing practices and build technical capacity.

Why West Africa?

The fishing grounds off the coast of West Africa are some of the richest and most diverse in the world. However, these fisheries are increasingly threatened by overfishing, unsustainable management practices, and high levels of post-harvest losses. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is also a major threat within the region. An estimated 18% of the total harvest is thought to come from IUU fishing.

West African fisheries may also lack the financial and technical capacity needed to implement sustainable fisheries management practices. The World Bank estimates that an additional USD $300 million in annual income could be created in West Africa through improved governance and management of the fisheries and marine ecosystems.

  • Fish provide up to 66% of animal protein consumed in West Africa
  • Around 1.5 million tonnes of fish are legally captured each year
  • Wild-caught fisheries sector contributes almost USD $500 million in annual export value
  • More than 10% of the active population works in the fishery sector
  • Approximately 60% of those engaged in post-harvest activities are women

Five countries, two projects, one standard: Setting a course for sustainable fishing in West Africa

Five countries, two projects, one standard: Setting a course for sustainable fishing in West Africa

What are the projects?

The MSC supported two projects, funded by the MAVA foundation, to help improve sustainable fishing practices in West Africa. The projects began in 2018 and closed in 2022. They operated across five countries and included 15 different species.

Illustration: Map of West African coast highlighting Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau

Sustainable Exploitation of small pelagics in MPAs and other protected areas in West Africa (PPAMP)

This project aimed to build capacity to improve sustainable fisheries management. This will help reduce over-exploitation of small pelagic fisheries in marine protected areas (MPAs) across Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.

There were 12 fisheries taking part in the PPAMP project, targeting sardinellas, sardines and bonga shad.

This project was coordinated by the West African Network for Marine Protected Areas, RAMPAO.

Leading West African Fisheries toward sustainable fishing practices (LEAD)

The LEAD project was designed to understand the financial obstacles that prevent West African fisheries from improving their management practices and working towards MSC certification.

Eight fisheries were involved in the LEAD project, located in Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, and The Gambia. These fisheries varied in size from artisanal fisheries to commercial fleets and represented a range of species, including spiny lobster, oysters and tropical tunas.

This project was implemented in collaboration with financial solution specialists, Clarmondial.

How does it work?

Stage 1: Mapping

Across both projects, 15 fisheries were initially identified as potential candidates to take part in the projects. Information was gathered on many different aspects of fisheries with the region, including gear types, species targeted and fleet size.

Stage 2: Pre-assessment

Eight fisheries were selected after consultation with regional experts to take part in LEAD, and four to take part in PPAMP. A comprehensive analysis of these fisheries and their environments was conducted– benchmarked and pre-assessed against the MSC Fisheries Standard to understand their environmental performance and identify areas for improvement.

Stage 3: Developing an improvement action plan

The fisheries in both projects developed action plans to address the improvements identified in the pre-assessment.

The fisheries completed their action plans in January 2022.


Together towards sustainable fishing in West Africa

Five countries, two projects, one standard

Ensemble vers une pêche durable en Afrique de l'Ouest

Cinq pays, deux projets, un référentiel

Juntos Para a pesca sustentável na África Ocidental

Cinco países, dois projetos, um padrão

Find out more

Find out more about the MAVA funded projects by downloading our mapping and country reports:

Contact us

Please contact Carlos Montero, MSC Senior Fisheries Program Manager, to find out more about how the MSC engages with regional fishery stakeholders in North-West Africa.

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