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Fishmeal industry poses risk to food and livelihoods in West Africa

The wasteful fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) industry in West Africa is posing a serious threat to regional fish stocks that are essential for the food security and livelihoods of local people, according to a report by Greenpeace

The report, entitled “A waste of fish: Food security under threat from the fishmeal and fish oil industry in West Africa,” raises strong concerns about the expanding FMFO industry in Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia. All three species of fish used for FMFO are essential for food security and already overexploited.

Greenpeace Africa calls on West African governments and companies to take immediate steps in the much-needed protection of regional fish stocks, as well as prioritise basic human rights such as food security and the livelihoods of artisanal fishermen and women processors.

“We’re losing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of edible fish to fishmeal and fish oil exports, potentially impacting 40mn African consumers. West African governments must protect regional fish stocks and put the food security rights of their citizens first, by quickly decreasing the amount of fish going into fishmeal production,” said Dr Ibrahima Cissé, oceans campaign manager for Greenpeace Africa.

“Decades of overfishing and government inaction have degraded regional fish stocks. Now the fishmeal industry is aggravating the problem to a critical level; taking fish from people’s plates to feed fish farms, pigs or poultry in faraway markets. Catches that could be made by artisanal fishermen and the women who process them - which could feed low-income families - is exported to be used as animal feed,” added Ibrahima Cissé.

Greenpeace has found 50 operational FMFO factories in the region, 40 of which were active in March 2019. The majority of West African FMFO is destined for overseas markets, largely Asia and the EU. Exports of FMFO from Mauritania have doubled between 2014 and 2018, making this country now the largest exporter of fishmeal and fish oil in the region. In 2017, it was estimated that nearly 550,000 tonnes of pelagic fish were harvested to supply FMFO processing plants in Mauritania.

The growing FMFO industry is not only threatening regional fish stocks but affecting livelihoods and food security. Around 80 per cent of fish landings in Senegal comes from the artisanal sector and fish provides around 70 per cent of the population’s animal protein needs and more than 50 per cent of protein needs in The Gambia.