Nigeria and Cameroon are among 12 nations taking part in a new project to improve the harvests for shrimp fishermen. However, besides improving their catch, the innovative ways of trawling ? using a new type of net ? better protect the ocean?s environment.

The project is a joint effort by the United Nations and World Bank. Nick Nuttall is the spokesman for the UN Environment Program. He told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that the project is funded by the Global Environment Facility.

?The Global Environment facility was set up 15 years ago and is funded by developed countries. It?s a $3 billion fund?and it backs environment-related projects in developing countries to try and assist them in their economic development in a sustainable way.?

Regarding the effects of shrimp fishing on the environment, Nuttall says, ?Shrimp is one of those fishery activities which is amongst the most environmentally damaging on the planet. Fundamentally, they trawl for shrimp in coastal waters where there are a lot of other marine animals: young fish of non-target species, turtles and this kind of thing. And like a lot of fisheries, they catch a lot of fish they don?t want to catch, often young juvenile fish, which, if they were left to grow, would become a huge source of income down the road when they matured for maybe the same fishermen, maybe for other fishermen, fishing in those waters. And so what this project is trying to do is to use novel net design, novel trawls, and other mechanisms to try and catch the shrimp, but not catch the fish you don?t want to catch and let them mature. And in fact there are some very nice results coming through. We?re very excited about this project.?

Asked how this might affect the economies of Niger and Cameroon, the UN environmental official says, ?Fish is a very important source of protein for people living in coastal in Africa. And it is also an important source of income both in local markets, but also in export markets. And as lot of fishermen on the west coast of Africa, in fact fishermen around the world, are seeing their incomes going down and down and down because so many seas and oceans have been overfished. And it?s absolutely critical we get more management of fisheries.?