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Officials Discuss Ways to Improve Africa's Fish Industry

Fishery officials and researchers from west, east, and central Africa are meeting in Ghana to improve performance in the traditional fishing sector. It is estimated that between 30 to 50 percent of fish caught in most African countries are wasted due to inadequate storage and processing methods.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says small scale fishermen produce almost 80 percent of the fish consumed in Africa. However a substantial amount of the value of their catch is lost before it is eaten.

Alhaji Jallow is the senior fisheries officer in the FAO regional office for Africa. He says the situation threatens food security.

"The fish if not transported quickly, in the fresh form to the market, it changes states, and whenever it changes state that is a loss, because you have quality loss, you have nutritional loss from it and due to that people also lose income, revenue and the quantity also is affected," he said. "And even where they transform it or process it, drying technique or smoking, there also they experience loss."

The four-day workshop, headed by the FAO, is discussing methods for collecting and analyzing data in the sector.

Alhaji Jallow says lack of reliable data is a major problem in planning for the industry.

"So that we can have an idea on what sort of loss we are dealing with in the region because most of the time we are dealing with estimates, some people talk of 30 percentage lost, some talk of 40 percent lost, some talk of 20 percent lost," Jallow said. "So these estimates create difficulties for decision makers and for planners, so the more effective or efficient the assessment is the better for the planners and decision makers in dealing with the loss in the industry and helping the people to reduce the loss."

Alhaji Jallow says improvements in Africa's fishing sector will boost the income of the estimated seven to 10 million women and men working in the industry.

"Once you reduce the loss, you provide more fish to the consumers, because it means then that more fish is available in terms of quantity and when more fish is available price wise it helps the fisherman or the people who land the fish to gain more income and that fits into what we call food security because if you have more money in you pocket or in you wallet to buy other things as well that you add to fish as a protein," he said.

FAO Africa office Assistant-Director General Oloche Edache says African countries import more than 1.5 million tons of fish at a cost of more than one billion dollars yearly.

The workshop that opened Monday is being attended by participants from Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Chad, Cameroon, Ghana, Gambia, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.