From 2000 to 2006 and 2011 to 2013, there were at least 183 documented IUU fishing cases in just six West African countries (Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, and Sierra Leone) - all of which involved Chinese-owned or flagged vessels, with at least 31 percent of them having engaged in illegal fishing activities more than once.
The practice of IUU fishing compromises the sustainability of fish stock and degrades the marine environment. Pirate boats most often use bottom trawlers, which drag heavy trawl equipment along the seabed, resulting in severe damage to the bottom habitat and high levels of by-catch. (By-catch can amount to 90 percent of a trawl's total catch and can affect highly vulnerable species like sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks.)
Along with the economic losses, pirate fishing in West Africa severely compromises the food security and livelihoods of coastal communities. In Sierra Leone, fish represents 64 percent of total animal protein consumed in the country, and an estimated 230,000 people are directly employed in fisheries. Throughout Africa, rural coastal fishing communities are directly dependent on the services provided by coastal and marine ecosystems and are often poor, vulnerable, and likely to suffer most from environmental change and the depletion of fish resources. Fisheries provide employment for up to 10 million people in Africa, often in labor-intensive, small-scale fisheries that include both subsistence and commercial activities for people involved in the harvesting, selling, and processing of fish products.