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Threats of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing to biodiversity and food security in the Republic of the Congo
Doherty, P.D.; Atsango, B.C.; Ngassiki, G.; Ngouembe, A.; Bréheret, N.; Chauvet, E.; Godley, B.J.; Machin, L.; Moundzoho, B.D.; Parnell, R.J.; Metcalfe, K. (2021). Threats of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing to biodiversity and food security in the Republic of the Congo. Conserv. Biol. 35(5): 1463-1472. https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13723
In: Conservation Biology. Wiley: Boston, Mass.. ISSN 0888-8892; e-ISSN 1523-1739, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine/Coastal

Authors  Top 
  • Doherty, P.D.
  • Atsango, B.C.
  • Ngassiki, G.
  • Ngouembe, A.
  • Bréheret, N.
  • Chauvet, E.
  • Godley, B.J., more
  • Machin, L.
  • Moundzoho, B.D.
  • Parnell, R.J.
  • Metcalfe, K.

Abstract
    Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing poses a major threat to effective management of marine resources, impacting biodiversity and communities dependent on these coastal resources. Spatio‐temporal patterns of industrial fisheries in developing countries are often poorly understood, with global efforts describing spatial patterns of fishing vessel activity currently based on automatic identification system (AIS) data. However, AIS is often not a legal requirement on fishing vessels, likely resulting in underestimates of the scale and distribution of legal and illegal fishing activity, which could have significant ramifications for targeted enforcement efforts and the management of fisheries resources. To help address this knowledge gap, we analysed three years of vessel monitoring system (VMS) data in partnership with the national fisheries department in the Republic of the Congo to describe the behaviour of national and distant water industrial fleets operating in these waters. We reveal the spatial footprint of the industrial fisheries fleet encompasses over one quarter of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), with an average of 73% of fishing activity taking place on the continental shelf (waters shallower than 200 m). In addition, our findings highlight that VMS is not acting as a deterrent or being effectively used as a pro‐active management tool, with as much as 33% (13% on average) of fishing effort occurring within prohibited areas set aside to protect biodiversity, including artisanal fisheries resources; with the distant water fleet (DWF) responsible for as much as 84% of this illegal activity. Given the growth in industrial and distant water fleets across the region, as well as low levels of management and enforcement, these findings highlight that there is an urgent need for the global community to help strengthen regional and national capacity to analyse national scale datasets if efforts to combat IUU fishing are to be effective.

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