Central Africa's gateway to the ocean, the Port Autonome de Pointe-Noire (PAPN), in the extreme south of the Republic of the Congo, is today a key hub for intercontinental trade, in particular between neighboring DRC, Angola and Gabon. It is also the main landing point for fishery products caught in the Congolese fishing waters.
Although relatively limited, the latter offer oceanographic conditions that, historically, fostered the development of traditional fishing and, more recently, the expansion of industrial fishing. In spite of the scientific recommendations drawn up by COPACE (Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic), industrial fishing is now growing extremely fast. In December 2017, 110 ships were identified operating in a relatively limited fishing area, compared to just 60 in 2015.
The sustainability of resources in jeopardy
The recent intensification of industrial fishing is already posing many challenges. First of all, it is in direct competition with the activity of the 448 dugout canoes making up the Congolese traditional fishing fleet. Although, on paper, these benefit from a reserved fishing area, the boundaries are regularly infringed by the industrial fleet, due to an underdeveloped system of control and monitoring.
In fact, the Congolese fishing industry plays an important role in the food supply of the country's population. Most of the catch is sold on the domestic market, mainly in the urban areas of Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville. The increase in catches by the industrial fishing industry, their freezing and packing for export, mainly to China, therefore means there is a real threat to the food security of the country's inhabitants.
A risk of extinction of certain species
In 2011, the French Oceanographic Institute (IFREMER), commissioned by the Congolese authorities, was already stressing the risk of rapid depletion of fish stocks in Congo's waters and called for strict controls on the fishing effort. In addition to the social and economic effects on the Congolese population, whose supply of fish is now under threat, there is also a risk of potentially irreversible collateral damage to biodiversity. Not forgetting the fact that the space set aside for landing the industrial fishing catch, which is inside the PAPN, is currently inadequate in terms of capacity and sanitary conditions as well as offering few facilities to its users.
These social, economic and environmental risks mean that it is urgent to introduce a more sustainable method of managing Congo's fishery resources, one which will guarantee the sustainability of the fish stocks and the food security of the local populations, but also ensure compliance with the country's international obligations on the monitoring of the fishing industry. These are the aims of the two agreements signed on 15 May 2019 between AFD and the Ministry of Finance and the Budget of the Republic of Congo and the Managing Director of Pointe-Noire port authority.
What are the solutions?
Paid by the European Union and delegated to AFD, these grants, which amount to a total of €29.3 million, complete AFD's €70m grant to PAPN, which is earmarked first and foremost for the modernization of PAPN's commercial port infrastructure. In concrete terms, the funds delegated by the EU will be assigned to the construction of the new industrial fishing port and a structure to protect the traditional fishing fleet's landing area.
Work is expected to begin in the second half of 2020. At the same time, a series of support measures will be taken to help the fisheries ministry to set up a satisfactory system of monitoring and controlling the fishing industry. Finally, a fraction of the grant should also enable PAPN to bring its facilities into line with international standards, particularly regarding the management of waste, hazardous substances and hydrocarbons.
"It is mainly traditional fishing and the local populations that should benefit from this programme," explains Hélène Gobert, manager of AFD's ocean, fishing & fish farming team. "In the long run, controlling the fishing effort and a good tracking, monitoring and control system will guarantee the non-depletion of the resources, the preservation of a whole sector of the local economy and the food security of the Congolese population."