Africa losing $37m in low fish access fee

Saturday December 02 2023

A fish trader prepares Fresh stock from Lamu County at the Majengo Fish Market, Kenya on June 17, 2023. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG


African countries could generate $37 million extra annually from the fish resources in coastal waters were they to increase access fees from the current average of $128 to $152, says a study in Nature Communications.

The paper titled A fish cartel for Africa suggests that by establishing a “continental fish cartel” and collectively offering fishing rights to foreign vessels, African nations could increase their profits by 23 percent. Currently, African countries individually sell access to their waters, leaving them vulnerable to the market powers of wealthier foreign fishers.

Newly available satellite data reveal that foreign vessels, including those from more recently industrialized China, Taiwan, and South Korea, account for more than half of the fishing activity in African waters, and pay pennies on the dollar for access to these waters, says the report.

Read: Overfishing pushes reef sharks toward extinction, study says

For example, in 2019, Senegal received $90 per tonne of tuna caught by European Union (EU) vessels, while the EU fishers themselves made $1,687 per tonne from selling those fish – nearly 20 times more, says the report.

To address this issue, the researchers propose emulating the model of the Pacific Islands, where several countries have formed a bloc to collectively manage fishing in their waters.


African countries earned an average of $128 per tonne of tuna caught in their waters between 2010 and 2021. The Pacific Islands received $454 per tonne for the same fish.

The research findings indicate that fish biomass could increase by 16 percent if African countries unite in selling fishing rights.

Implementing a continent-level fish “cartel” in Africa poses challenges, such as differing interests among African countries and variations in the size and health of their fisheries. However, the researchers believe that such an agency could be a valuable investment, particularly as Africa is increasingly becoming more economically integrated.

Read: Congo fishing town struggles as militias thrive

“While impediments to sustainable development like corruption are hard to change in the medium-term, deeper African integration is an already-emerging solution to African countries’ economic and ecological challenges,” said lead author Gabriel Englander, a research economist at the World Bank Englander said.