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Fishing Linked to Wildlife Extinction

European Union fishing policies are directly linked to the extinction of such African wildlife as monkeys, elephants and warthogs, according to findings recently published in Science. The findings, based on a 30-year study of Ghana, show that as fish populations in waters off the country’s western coast drop, residents resort to hunting bush meat both for trade and to maintain their food supply.

Foreign vessels, particularly those associated with the European Union, are often granted access to Ghana’s fishing grounds with no limits on catch, and fish stocks in Ghanaian waters have declined by almost half since 1977. “If people aren’t able to get their protein from fish, they’ll turn elsewhere for food and economic survival,” says Justin Brashares, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and lead author of the report. “Unfortunately, the impacts on wild game resources are not sustainable.” (National Geographic News, November 2004)

A solution remains unclear. The European Union has expressed concern over the increase in bush-meat trade, but reforming EU policy-which includes subsidizing fishing vessels operating in African waters-will not solve the problem of depleted fish stocks.

Brashares notes that “strong negative correlations between fish supply and bush-meat consumption” are also evident in Cameroon, Congo, Gabon and Liberia. “This is not only a Ghana issue, or a West Africa issue, but an issue for much of Africa and perhaps the developing world.” (National Geographic News, November 2004).

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