The Canoe and Fishing Gear Owners Association of Ghana (CaFGOAG) and its partners have called on the European Union (EU) to restrict the importation of fishmeal and fish oil from food-insured regions with overexploited fish stocks.
Fishmeal is the commercial production of feed from whole wild-caught fish, by-catch, and fish by-products such as sardinella to feed farm animals, including pigs, poultry, and aquaculture fish, while fish oil is also extracted from fatty fishes through various methods for dietary supplements.
Nana Kweigyah, the President of CAFGOAG, said in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) said the global demand for fish meal and fish oil has led to the proliferation of factories in West Africa that use sardinella (a small pelagic fish species) from the region to process their products.
He explained that sardinella is a staple food for the region, which is traditionally caught by artisanal fishers, processed, and marketed by women, adding that using these fish therefore for meal and oil, coupled with the lack of investment in the small pelagic value chain for human consumption, meant wasting a lot of the fish to the detriment of the needed nutrition for humans.
He added that fish meal and fish oil produced in West Africa are imported onto the EU market, making European companies the beneficiaries of the unsustainable practice, which, on the other hand, was causing job losses for fishers in the artisanal sector and threatening the right to food and nutrition for the people in the region.
In a letter dated January 25, 2024, to the EU and signed by nine bodies, including CaFGOAG, they asked the EU to ensure that access to sardinella should be exclusively reserved for artisanal fishers who fish for human consumption.
They called on the EU to publicly support, at the international level, the recommendations of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), affirming the right to food and access to healthy foods and nutrition for local communities, which includes the need to increase the consumption of small pelagic fish among the most vulnerable populations.
It indicated that the FAO’s emphasis on the overexploitation of certain small pelagic stocks and the urgency of their sustainable and regional management, as well as the responsibility of coastal states, must be looked at by the EU, which has a crucial voice due to its involvement in the region through the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements and the EU-Africa partnership.
“On the other hand, to ensure there is coherence between internal and external actions, the EU should support research and regional coordination to ensure that assessments and recommendations are produced in time, in particular through support and cooperation with FAO and other regional fishing organisations,” the letter added.
It further called on the EU to support investments in the small pelagic value chain for human consumption, by reinforcing the structures for the treatment of these fish, including adapted landing sites and improved conservation facilities, among others.
The signatories also asked the EU to urge its companies that import fish oil and fish meal to introduce full transparency in their sourcing practices and ensure effective due diligence in their supply chain.
It also asked the EU to look at restricting imports of aquaculture products that have been fed fish-based feed from these regions, stressing that the EU cannot continue to import fishery and aquaculture products that run counter to the principles of sustainability that it advocates.