WEST AFRICA – In West Africa, aquaculture is experiencing renewed interest, but growth will still take time, a report published by Ecofin Pro, has highlighted extensive prospects in aquaculture in West Africa, where the demand for fish continues to surge.

According to the report, the region, known for its love of fish, often resorts to imports to meet the escalating demand, while overfishing relentlessly depletes coastal fish stocks.

Consequently, governments are increasingly turning their focus toward the aquaculture sector, which is primed for significant expansion.

However, this growth is dependent on overcoming challenges related to input supply, financing, and access to technology.

“Aquaculture production in West Africa has surged over the past two decades, but it has not yet supplanted the need for fish imports, which remains substantial in this region where traditional catch-based fishing systems have reached their limits,” the report highlighted.

Several West African nations boast some of the highest per capita fish consumption levels on the continent.

The report also revealed that in Senegal and Ghana, residents consume 29 kg and 25 kg of fish per year, respectively, exceeding both the African and global averages.

As urbanization, rising incomes, and a preference for fish as a nutritious protein source continue to grow, it is predicted that the regions’ appetite for fish is poised to increase further.

Meanwhile, this surge in demand already strains the existing supply chain, necessitating substantial fish imports. Overfishing and illegal practices account for a significant portion of fish catches in the region, which exacerbates the challenge.

To address these pressing needs, governments are increasingly looking to aquaculture. Countries such as Senegal, Niger, and Nigeria have unveiled plans in recent years to bolster their aquaculture sectors.

Aquaculture production in West Africa remains modest, contributing to around 12% of total fish production in the region, with significant variation between countries.

According to the report, imports have continued to fluctuate between 33% and 40% of the region’s fish consumption, costing around US$1.8 billion on average.

Fish farmers decry high input costs, government calls for sustainable aquaculture biosecurity

Meanwhile, in Ghana, rural women farmers and fish processors have voiced concerns over the high costs of farm inputs and the encroachment of sand miners on their farmlands, which limits access to arable land for crop cultivation.

In response, Mrs Lydia Sasu, the Executive Director of the Development Action Association, called for an aquaculture biosecurity plan to curb business behaviours that damaged the ecosystem.

The plan, she said, should ensure fish farming protected wild species and promoted healthy, productive, and resilient water-use ecosystems, including domestic jobs and services.