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New Initiative To Restore Africa's Fisheries

A new initiative has been announced to fight poverty in Africa by restoring the continent’s depleted fisheries. It’s a joint effort by the African Union, World Bank, World Wildlife Fund and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Fish are a leading export commodity for Africa worth over two and a half billion dollars -- and contribute to the food security of 200-million people on the continent.

Scott Burns is director of the marine conservation program at the World Wildlife Fund. In Washington, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about how the initiative works.

“First of all, the initiative has created a new sustainable fishing investment fund. The fund will be used in sub-Saharan Africa to two things: One, to improve the sustainability of fisheries in that region, and two, to do so in such a way that it addresses poverty concerns there. The fund includes a commitment of $60 million from the Global Environment Facility, which is to be matched 3 to 1 with funds from other international donors,” he says.

Burns talks about the current status of African fisheries. He says, “The status of fisheries in Africa is much like the status of fisheries elsewhere in the world. Some fisheries are in relatively good shape, but many fisheries are depleted and heading in the wrong direction…it’s sort of like killing the goose that lays the golden egg. When fisheries are healthy, they produce more fish and more jobs for coastal people. As a result of over fishing, (at) many fisheries around the world the reproductive capacity has been reduced. So they’re producing fewer fish than they ought to.”

The initiative is also expected to help fisheries damaged or destroyed by the tsunami of several years ago that struck parts of east Africa.