West Africa tuna war

West Africa Nations On Verge Of Regional Tuna War

Some West African Nations Risk A Tuna War By Giving Drastic Cuts In Tuna License Fees To Lure And Keep Foreign Fleets Catching Last Of The Dwindling Regional Schools Tuna

Migratory tuna that roam the ocean pastures of West Africa are a common resource today subject to increasing competition over dwindling numbers.

If West African nations instead become good shepherds and restore their ocean tuna pastures the tuna will recover to historic abundance and provide fish for all.

sierra leone tuna war

Foreign fishing vessel from the Isle of Mann hauls Sierra Leone tuna in for a fraction of the regions license fees

In the face of collapsing tuna pastures and tuna stocks the World Bank has called on Sierra Leone to increase the fees it charges foreign tuna fleets for fishing for tuna in its waters. Sierra Leone is engaging in a tuna war by now offering those foreign fleets deep discount licenses which are provided for less than 1% of the value of their catch.

This is seen as a desperate action by Sierra Leone to keep the foreign fleets in its waters as tuna catches throughout West Africa tuna pastures collapse. As those ocean tuna pastures collapse tuna are becoming scarce and the foreign fleets find it more and more difficult to be able to afford to pursue and catch the last of the dwindling regional tuna.

Other West African nations, like Liberia, charge as much as 10% or more of the value of the tuna catch for licenses to foreign ships to catch tuna in their waters. The average charge today for West African foreign tuna fleets is 5%-8% of the catch. The Country Manager for the World Bank office in Sierra Leone stated recently that license fees paid by giant tuna seiners fishing the country’s waters are too low, and that as a result about 95 trawlers currently sail the country’s waters.


World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone – Parminder Brar

Parminder P.S. Brar, of the World Bank, told a joint press conference organized by his office, the United States Embassy and the European Union that based on their assessment, the maximum number of tuna trawlers that might operate in ‘sustainable fishing’ in Sierra Leone waters should be far fewer, more like 30 boats! That’s less than a third of what is presently fishing Sierra Leone waters and taking a dis-proportionate share of dwindling West African migratory tuna. Neighbouring nations cannot be expected to tolerate this situation for long.


West Africa Tuna Catch Distribution. Note the catch mostly appears off the continental shelf in deep water mineral limited ocean pastures.

This report on the perils of West African tuna follows on another major World Bank report on tuna recently released which describes the similar peril tuna and tuna fleets are experiencing in the South Pacific tuna pastures. There the World Bank, as per usual, focuses only on the catch side of the tuna story while, like in West Africa, it ignores the perils and promise of tuna pasture biology.

At present, Sierra Leone receives a paltry $6 million (US) annually from license fees paid by foreign tuna fishing fleets, in spite of having at least 95 foreign trawlers registered to fish in its territorial waters. That translates to the foreign catch revenue being more than $600 million. Neighbouring nations receive as much as ten times the tuna revenue as Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone’s deep discount to lure foreign fishing fleets is bound to create a regional tuna price war with neighbouring nations.

“The tariff needs to be repriced and improved. Liberia charges 10%. If Sierra Leone is to develop its fisheries, it needs to involve the private sector. For that to happen, they need a sustainable resource which is not available right now and good legal framework, which is also in the process of setting up,”  said Mr. Brar.

“We need to work with the government and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to revise and improve the fishery law before its goes to Cabinet and Parliament. Also, the country urgently needs a jetty on the Lungi side, where fish can be landed, processed and exported as per international standard,”  Brar stated.

United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone, John Hoover, said that the country’s fisheries are probably its greatest natural resource that can help strengthen nutrition, health and food security of Sierra Leoneans, as well as generate jobs and provide revenue for the government.

“Fisheries are a renewable resource and if managed properly they can contribute to economic development and prosperity on a sustainable basis,” said Ambassador Hoover.

Update 21 May 2016 – EU Joins West Africa Tuna War Paying Top Dollar To Operate A Large Fleet: Under a new four-year-deal just announced, 98 EU vessels from 11 Member States will be allowed to fish for shrimp, demersal fish, tuna and small pelagic fish in Mauritania’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In return, the EU will pay Mauritania a financial contribution of €59,125 million per year – €4,125 million of which will go to support the country’s fisheries sector, making it the biggest of all Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements in financial terms.

Sadly nothing in the agreement speaks to working to restore Mauritania’s ocean pastures. The EU’s very large 98 vessel fleet specified in the agreement compares to the 90+ vessel fleet in neighbouring Sierra Leone that the World Bank has said is triple the size that would be suited for a sustainable fishery there!

Regional and International Fisheries Pundits Unable or Unwilling ‘To See’ Any But The Usual Suspects Regarding Declining Tuna

If one only considers the usual suspects when looking to explain tuna fisheries collapse one will fail to identify both the real source of the peril and the promise. The first and most important fact about tuna biology is that they are ‘pasture creatures.’ As everyone knows when pastures are well-kept and flourishing so too are the ‘livestock’ of those pastures.

Walt Whitman, the famous author, once said,
“All beef is grass.” On ocean pastures the grass is phytoplankton so he might as well have said,
“All fish is plankton.”

The real trouble with tuna pastures off the coast of West Africa comes from CO2 caused 'global greening' of the African Sahel

The trouble with tuna pastures of West Africa comes from CO2 caused ‘global greening’ of the African Sahel reducing dust in the wind. That missing dust used to keep ocean pastures green now they are becoming blue deserts – click to read more

While overfishing practices is surely part of the problem and the number one “usual suspect” it’s not the root of the tuna crisis. The real tuna crisis is the collapse of West Africa tuna pastures and their loss of carrying capacity as the grass of those pastures, the phytoplankton. That phytoplankton has been progressively disappearing for decades at a rate of 1% per year due to the drought of dust the ocean is suffering brought on by CO2 enhanced ‘global greening’.

That 1% per year rate of ocean pasture phytoplankton decline has been widely reported to be ongoing for the past 50 years! If such a decline were reported in any of the world’s vital terrestrial bread-basket grain-growing regions it would be a doom and gloom news story that would eclipse even ‘climate change.’ Yet this collapse of ocean pasture productivity is instead ‘eclipsed’ by reports and retorts on ‘the usual suspects.’

West Africa Can Avoid A Tuna War By Immediately, Sustainably, And At Low Cost Restore It’s Ocean Tuna Pastures And Bring Back The Fish

If just one ship, just one out of the hundreds in the regional fleet, were drafted/seconded to perform ocean restoration work instead of commerce our ocean pastures would be immediately and sustainably regenerated bringing sea-life back to historic abundance.


Just one large tuna ship repurposed, like swords into plowshares, could serve as an Ocean Pasture restoration ship. Working for just part of each year that one ship could easily restore, replenish, and sustain West Africa’s ocean tuna pastures to historic condition of health and abundance immediately at a cost of less that the cost of operating the ship to catch tuna. Click to read more

The additional ocean pasture life would be seen as billions of additional fish swim into nets of fishers to inexpensively feed hundreds of millions of people every year. In the bargain billions of tonnes of CO2 would be repurposed, via regenerated ocean photosynthesis, into new life.

The World Bank, US and EU Ambassadors, and FAO seem unwilling to fund the work of the single ship out of hundred taking from the regions ocean pastures to give back to those pastures and sustain them to care for, restore, and replenish those ocean pastures to bring back the fish. It seems instead they are more than willing to merely join a chorus of foreign ‘cat birds’ proclaiming the trouble is all due to ‘the ususal suspects’, those bad ‘over-fishing usual suspects.


In 2012 after many years of development work in cooperation with many Ministries of the Canadian government and with project funding support from those ministries I completed a commercial-scale pilot project designed to restore and replenish a vital ocean salmon pasture in the N.E. Pacific. My company Ocean Pastures provided the technology, methodology, and scientific and engineering expertise.

The work entailed spreading a my prescription of vital mineral dust over an area of some 10,000 km2. Within a fortnight the ocean changed from being a blue desert into a thriving nourishing ocean salmon pasture. The very next year the salmon which I knew were resident on their restored and revived pasture swam home to Alaska. 50 million Pink Salmon were forecast and expected to be caught in 2013 but instead something wonderful happened, 226 million Pink salmon swam into the nets of Alaskan fishers, the largest catch in all of history. The state Governor reported a year later that the additional fish poured nearly $700 million dollars into the state economy.

sitka news salmon story

My 2012 ocean pasture replenishment and restoration work in the NE Pacific returned the ocean to life as seen in the largest catch of salmon in all of history in Alaska the next year.

Join me to Bring Back The Fish!