“If you want fast money and are willing to take the risk, that’s the only way to get it,” says Abdullah Dieng, a fisherman in Bissau, Guinea, in a new IRIN article, “Fishermen turn to trafficking as fish profits drop
.” Fishermen in Guinea have a problem: No one is buying their fish. “The lack of decent roads into the interior of the country, combined with prohibitive fuel prices, makes it too difficult for fish-sellers to transport fish any further than Bissau, creating a saturated market,” reports IRIN. As an alternative, the fishermen are turning to illegal trade in drugs and humans. By smuggling, they can earn much more money.
“The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates several hundred kilograms of cocaine go through the country each week, while according to 2004 figures from the International Office of Migration, one million West and Central Africans head clandestinely to Europe every year,” reports IRIN.
Fisheries are collapsing all over the world, but especially in Africa. The New York Times article “Europe Takes Africa’s Fish, and Boatloads of Migrants Follow” reports that there is almost no regulation of Bissau’s fishery, like most fisheries along the African coast. “Creating the Enabling Environment for Effective Fisheries Enforcement,” an event in the Environmental Change and Security Program’s fisheries series, explored some of the challenges associated with fisheries management. One of the most basic problems is a lack of information. Vladimir Kacyznski, a marine scientist with the University of Washington, told the Times that “no one has comprehensively studied the nation’s coastal waters for at least 20 years.” As a result, both local and European fishers have mostly stripped the area of its fish.
The lack of oversight is largely due to a lack of attention, and thus a lack of money. IRIN reports that “The fishing ministry receives just 5 percent of the government’s paltry annual budget, despite fishing bringing in 40 percent of the country’s annual revenues, and most of this money can only cover staff salaries.” Without increased funding and attention, it is unlikely that a solution will emerge to the environmental and economic problems that force fishermen to turn to illegal and dangerous activities. As the source of their livelihoods disappears, they have fewer and fewer options. Said one consultant quoted in the Times story, “The sea is being emptied.”