International Journal of
Fisheries and Aquaculture

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. Fish. Aquac.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2006-9839
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJFA
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 225

Full Length Research Paper

Socio-economic characteristics of the fishing fleets operating in Benin, West Africa

Simon Ahouansou Montcho
  • Simon Ahouansou Montcho
  • School of Aquaculture, National University of Agriculture (UNA), Porto-Novo, Benin.
  • Google Scholar
Setonde Constant Gnansounou
  • Setonde Constant Gnansounou
  • Laboratoire de Biomathématiques et d'Estimations Forestières, Faculty of Agronomic Science, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin.
  • Google Scholar
Josiane Flora Chadare
  • Josiane Flora Chadare
  • Laboratoire de Sciences et Technologie des Aliments et Bioressources et de Nutrition Humaine, Ecole des Sciences et Techniques de Conservation et de Transformation des Produits Agricoles (ESTCTPA), Université Nationale d’Agriculture (UNA), Benin.
  • Google Scholar
Kolawole Valere Salako
  • Kolawole Valere Salako
  • Laboratoire de Biomathématiques et d'Estimations Forestières, Faculty of Agronomic Science, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin.
  • Google Scholar
Zacharie Sohou
  • Zacharie Sohou
  • Institut de Recherches Halieutiques et Océanologiques du Bénin (IRHOB), Cotonou, Bénin.
  • Google Scholar
Pierre Failler
  • Pierre Failler
  • Centre for Blue Governance, University of Portsmouth, UK.
  • Google Scholar
Romain Glele Kakai
  • Romain Glele Kakai
  • Laboratoire de Biomathématiques et d'Estimations Forestières, Faculty of Agronomic Science, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin.
  • Google Scholar
Achille Ephrem Assogbadjo
  • Achille Ephrem Assogbadjo
  • Laboratoire de Biomathématiques et d'Estimations Forestières, Faculty of Agronomic Science, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin.
  • Google Scholar


  •  Received: 16 November 2021
  •  Accepted: 19 April 2022
  •  Published: 31 May 2022

 ABSTRACT

The fishery industry plays a paramount role in poverty alleviation, food security and job creation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Scientific attempts to characterize the sector are however limited. This study used primary and secondary data from 2014 to 2018 to characterize fishing fleets and the diversity of fish species landed in Benin. Primary data were collected via face-to-face interviews and focus group discussions with informants identified using snowball and purposive sampling techniques. Secondary data on the landing statistics for five years (2014-2018) were additionally obtained from the Direction of Halieutic Production (DHP). Findings showed that five fishing fleets are currently operating in Benin, including the Artisanal National Continental Fleet (ANCF), Artisanal National Maritime Fleet (ANMF), Artisanal Foreign Maritime Fleet (AFMF), National Industrial Fleet (NIF) and Foreign Industrial Fleet (FIF). The mean annual volume from all the fishing fleets for the study period was 52,997 ± 12,269 tons, with an average commercial value of 82,194,096 ± 17,618,162 euros per year. Also, 48 species were recorded for the ANMF, 36 families of freshwater species for the ANCF, 43 species for AFMF, and 40 species for FIF. The catch volumes and their associated commercial values showed significant difference across the fishing fleets (ANOVA, p<0.05). This study highlights the paramount importance of the Artisanal National Continental Fleet in Benin and provides useful information for regional and global assessment of the fishery industry in the country.

Key words: Fisheries, fleets, short-term assessment, West Africa.


 INTRODUCTION

Hunger is rising excessively in the world and has affected about 821 million  people  globally  so  far  (Hasselberg et al., 2020). The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs),  particularly   Goal   2,   aims   to   combat hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition by 2030 (UN, 2015). One of the vital sectors that need to be promoted to reach the above target is the fishery and aquaculture industry (Galati et al., 2015). The significance of the fisheries sector in job creation, livelihoods support and food malnourishment eradication, is widely recognized (Aheto et al., 2019; Escamilla-Pérez et al., 2021).  In West Africa, local communities rely heavily on fishing products, not only as sources of protein, but also as principal means of employment. Indeed, the sector provides direct employments for about 7 million people in the sub region (Doumbouya et al., 2017). However, the fish stock of the region has drastically declined, driven by illegal fishing, overexploitation, overcapacity and climate-related effects among others (Porobic et al., 2019). In Benin, fishing activities occur predominantly in the south. However, the existence of some water bodies in Central and Northern Benin gives opportunity to inland fishermen to also operate. Here the fisheries sector provides opportunities to about 56,876 fishermen; 20,000 fishmongers, and sustains more than 300,000 indirect jobs (Achoh et al., 2018). As noticed elsewhere in the subregion (Doumbouya et al., 2017; Porobic et al., 2019; Asiedu et al., 2021; Thiaw et al., 2021), fishing resources are under threat in Benin, predominantly as a result of manmade action (Latifou et al., 2020). Lalèyè et al. (2019) observed that over 50% of Benin populations live in the coastal zone, resulting in a large pressure on the marine and coastal resources. Despite its importance and the threats associated with the sector, limited research has been done on the fishery industry in Benin, especially with regards to the fishing fleets, their economic value, and their diversity in terms of species composition. Previous studies related to fishery in Benin have attempted to understand the fish diversity and the dynamics of fish stock within the marine and inland waters of the country (Arame et al., 2019; Djihouessi, et al. 2019; Jawad et al., 2020). Other researchers also focused on the physico-chemical and the physical characterization of inland and coastal fisheries and their implications in the maintenance of fishing activities in Benin (Houssou et al., 2017; Achoh et al., 2018; Lalèyè et al., 2019). The scarcity of data on fishing fleets and their socio-economic value hampers proper development of sustainable and integrated management approaches, which consider the complex interactions and interplays between the socio-economic and environmental dimensions. This study, therefore, sought to characterize the fishing fleets operating in Benin’s fisheries, evaluate the catch volume of each fishing fleet, and assess the diversity and commercial value of the landed species.


 MATERIALS AND METHODS

Study area

The study was conducted from July to November 2021 in Benin, West Africa (Figure 1). As a coastal state, the country is endowed with 125 km long seaboard and several coastal ecosystems which foster the harvesting and provision of a wide range of seafood (Lalèyè et al., 2019). Away from the maritime environment, the continental shelf of Benin is constituted by many water bodies and effluents which promote inland fishing. The most prominent water bodies which facilitate inland fisheries in Benin include the rivers Pendjari in the Northwest (420 km), Couffo in the Southeast (170 Km), Ouémé in central and Southern Benin (608 km), Niger in the Northeast and Mono in Western Benin (500 Km). Some of these rivers have many tributaries where extensive fishing activities also take place. It is the case of the River Niger with the tributaries; Mékrou (480 km), Alibori (427 Km) and Sota (254 km), and the River Ouémé with the tributaries; Zou (150 km) and Okpara (200 km) (Latifou et al., 2020). Also, the hydrographic system of the country comprises some permanent lakes and lagoons such as Nokoue, Aheme, Azili and Toho among others. These permanent lakes and lagoons play a prominent role in the sustainability of inland fisheries in the country (Houssou et al., 2017).

Data collection

The methodological approach used for this study is summarized in Figure 2. Data were collected from two different sources: primary and secondary. Primary data were collected through direct interactions with local communities via focus group discussions and in-depth interviews. Villages and landing sites visited included Krake-plage landing beach in the municipality of Seme-Kpodji, Xwlacodji and the Artisanal fishing harbour of Cotonou (POPAC) in Cotonou, Togbin landing beach in Abomey-Calavi, Djegbadji, Houakpe-Daho and Aido villages in Ouidah and Gbeffa, Ayiguinnou and Seko communities in Grand-Popo. Secondary data on the volumes of catch and their associated commercial values were acquired from the Direction of Halieutic Production (DHP), a public agency in charge of fishery and aquaculture development in Benin.

Primary data

Focus group discussions were organized on each landing site or community investigated (9 focus group discussions in total). The focus group discussions brought together fisherfolks, fish mongers and community members whose activities are directly linked to fishing activities. A total of 45 participants were engaged for the 9 focus groups (5 participants per group). Additionally, 20 key informants including 6 fishmongers, 10 chief fishermen, 2 government officials and 2 leaders of fishery associations were engaged in in-depth interviews to collect relevant information on the topic which might not be uncovered by the focus group discussions. The fishery associations that took part in the interviews included board members of the National Union of Marine Fisherfolks and Allied of Benin (NUMFAB) which controls the marine and coastal fishing activities as well as the National Union of the Continental Fisherfolks and Allied of Benin (NUCFAB) which regulates the inland   fishery.    Participants   were   selected   via   snowball   and purposive sampling techniques. Data were collected with semi-structured interview guide. The questionnaire was made up of open-ended questions. Themes of the questionnaire included information on the socio-demographic characteristics of the informants as well as the types of fishing gears used, fishing period, the targeted species and the volume of fish landed during the study period. These field interactions helped the research team to crosscheck and validate the secondary data collected.

Secondary data

Landing statistics for five years (from 2014 to 2018) were acquired from DHP. This period was considered because of the scarcity of fishery-related secondary data in Benin for the previous five-year period. Data were obtained about the volume of fish catches during the period, species landed and their associated economic values. Other fishery-relevant publications such as technical reports, peer-reviewed scholarly articles and policy briefs from the Government of Benin, research institutions and civil society organizations covering the study period, were reviewed in order to check the accuracy and the validity of the acquired data.

Data analysis

Primary data were transcribed for content validity. Information which matches with the purpose of the study were retrieved from the audio records for understanding. The process included the listening, encoding, transcribing and the identification of the relevant themes that better explain the objectives of the study. Information recorded on the field was complemented with handwritten notes. The secondary data were tabulated. For the secondary data, they were analyzed using descriptive statistics (mean, standards errors, and proportion). A one-way ANOVA test was run to test the significance of the difference of the catch volumes and their associated values among the identified fishing fleets.

Ethical considerations

Ethical issues concerning human subjects were duly addressed before and during the conduct of this study. Prior to data collection, ethical approval reference UCCIRB/CANS/2021/20 was obtained from the University of Cape Coast Institutional Review Board (UCCIRB). On the field, the purpose of the work was explicitly explained to each interviewee as well as the possible risks associated with their participation before engaging them. Oral consent was also sought from participants before engaging them in the study.


 RESULTS

Characteristics of the fishing fleets

Five fishing fleets were identified in the fisheries sector of Benin. They include the artisanal fleets comprising the Artisanal National Continental Fleet (ANCF), the Artisanal National Maritime Fleet (ANMF) and the Artisanal Foreign Maritime Fleet (AFMF), along with the industrial fleets which encompass the National Industrial Fleet (NIF) and the Foreign Industrial Fleet (FIF). Table 1 presents a thorough description of the identified fleets. In the  ANMF, fisher folks use mostly lines and hooks to catch demersal fish, and purse seine and drift gillnets to harvest pelagic fish. Informants reported that these fisher folks are predominantly indigenous from Benin and reportedly operate throughout the year, and land their catch in the fishing harbours of Benin and Nigeria. An estimated number of 551 canoes were legally registered in this fleet, of which 399 go for demersal fish and 162 targeting pelagic fish. Fishing gears used by the fisher folks of this fleet and recorded on the field included lines and hooks, cast nets, purse nets, and drift gillnets. The AFMF also targets pelagic and demersal fish using almost the same fishing gears as ANMF. Information collected from the field indicated that the fleet is entirely controlled by foreign fisher folks from Togo and Nigeria, but dominated by Ghanaians. The AFMF has 114 registered units used for demersal fish catching, while only five registered boats exist for those targeting pelagic fish. No boats of this fleet lands outside Benin, making their catch available either in the artisanal fishing harbour of Cotonou or within the fishing camps located along the coastal zone of the country. Records on the ANCF indicated an estimated number of 45,000 canoes operating in the continental waters of the country. These fisher folks are predominantly from Benin, and targeted solely freshwater fish species. They carry out their activity throughout the year using a myriad of fishing gears (Table 1). The National Industrial Fleet (NIF) and the Foreign Industrial Fleet (FIF) targeted demersal and pelagic fish, with 7 and 15 registered units. The NIF is mostly handled by Benin nationals, whereas the FIF is controlled by industrial vessels from the European Union and China. The FIF does not land its catch in Benin, but rather in Ghana. As a result, their catch volumes and their associated commercial values were not considered in the study.

Catch volume

The mean annual volume from all the fishing fleets for the study period was 52,997 ± 12,269 tons (Table 2). The lowest mean catch volume was obtained in 2014 (43,121 tons), whereas the highest was recorded in 2018 (74,345 tons). The landings during the period were predominantly influenced by the ANCF. The total catch of the ANCF during this period averaged 42,147 ± 2,759 tons, that is 3 times, 22 times and 496 times higher than the ANMF (15,892 ± 11,822 tons), the AFMF (1,896 ± 109 tons) and the NIF (85 ± 28 tons), respectively. Mean annual volume catch of the ANMF during the study period was 15,892 ± 11,823 tons, ranging from 11,688 tons (2014) to 25,768 tons (2018). Small pelagic species contributed mostly to the recorded total catch volume of this fleet, with an annual mean record of 11,723 ± 8,724 tons. Landings of the ANCF varied from 29,709 tons (2014) to 45,686 tons (2018)   whereas   the   ones   of   the   AFMF   fluctuated between1,487 tons (2017) and 2,750 tons (2018) with an annual mean value of 1,896 ± 109 tons. The small pelagic  fish   remained   the   main   contributors   of   the recorded catches throughout the study period with annual mean landing of 1,401 ± 162 tons. Concerning the NIF, the  catch  volume varied from 49 tons (2017) to 152 tons (2015), with an annual mean of 85 ± 28 tons. Demersal species were mostly captured by this fleet during the study period, with a mean volume of 75 ± 56 tons per year, while molluscs and crustacean were scarce in the landings with the annual catch volumes of 0.3 ± 0.3 tons and 0.9 ± 0.5 tons, respectively. There is a significant difference of the catch volume across the fishing fleets (ANOVA test, p<0.05).

Commercial value of the landings per fleet

Landings for all the fleets put together generated an average of 82,194,096 ± 17,618,162 euros per year from 2014 to 2018 (Table 3). The fishing fleet which generated more financial resources was ANCF with a mean commercial value of 50,534,327 ± 6,319,099 euros, that is 2 times, 15 times and 260 times higher than ANMF (28,127,005 ± 4,396,669 euros), the AFMF (3,338,024 ± 239,245 euros) and NIF (194,489 ± 53,187 euros), respectively. The total commercial value of the ANMF’s fishery resources increased progressively from 20,690,563 euros (recorded in 2014) to 45,356,535 euros (2018) with small pelagic species contributing mostly to the recorded financial resources (17,642,623 ± 2,781,981 euros) (Table 3). Likewise, the commercial value of the freshwater species landed by fisher folks operating in the continental waters increased from 55,578,693 euros (2015) to 84,084,822 euros (2018). Like in the ANMF, small  pelagic   fish   species   contributed   mostly  to  the financial resource generated by the AFMF, with a record of 2,092,634 ± 239,245 euros. The financial resources generated by this fleet ranged from 2,642,985 euros (2017) to 4,814,185 euros (2018). Lastly, the NIF recorded a total commercial value ranging from 109,291 euros (2017) to 352,634 euros (2018). Here, the demersal fish species contributed mostly to the recorded financial value with an annual mean of 171,434 ± 48,241 euros, whereas the molluscs contributed less with an annual mean of 124 ± 76 euros. The commercial values showed significant difference across the fishing fleets (ANOVA test, p<0.05).

Diversity of species landed and their commercial values

Fishing products harvested in Benin during the study period differed according to the fishing fleets. Two species of crustacean, 27 species of demersal fishes, one species of big pelagic fish and 18 species of small pelagic fish were landed by the ANMF. The harvested crustacean species included Panulirus sp. and Portunus validus, with a mean catch volume of 4 ± 1.14 tons and 2.2 ± 0.8 tons, and a mean commercial value of 38,527 ± 10,573 euros and 6,986 ± 2,427 euros, respectively. Big pelagic fish captured belonged to the family Istiophoridae/Xiphiidae and averaged 52 ± 10 tons per year, with an associated commercial value of 120,887 ± 24,913  euros.  The  dominant  demersal species brought offshore by artisanal national maritime fisher folks included Galeoides decadactylus (mean catch volume =921 ± 65 tons, mean commercial value = 1,832,016 ± 1,24,765 euros), Pseudotolithus spp. (mean catch volume= 950 ± 297 tons, mean commercial value = 4,352,283 ± 2,68,304 euros), Carcharhinus sp. (mean catch volume = 466 ± 146 tons, mean commercial value= 2,31,250 ± 16,968 euros) and Carcharhinus brevipinna (mean catch volume 416 ± 135 tons, mean commercial value= 2,06,708 ± 23,735 euros). The small pelagic species were dominated by Euthynnus alletteratus (mean catch volume = 2,507 ± 282 tons, mean commercial value = 2,871,557 ± 233,685 euros), Cypselurus spp. (mean catch volume = 2,350 ± 196 tons, mean commercial value = 95,677 ± 7,472 euros), Scomberomorus tritor (mean catch volume = 2,205 ± 192 tons, mean commercial value= 6,733,355 ± 5,73,298 euros) and Caranx spp. (mean catch volume = 1,573 ± 120 tons, mean commercial value = 1,482 ± 286 euros) (Table 4). Concerning the ANCF, existing records showed a total of 36 family of freshwater species from 2014 to 2018 (Table 5). The landings were dominated by the Cichlidae (mean catch volume = 14,562 ± 979 tons, mean commercial value = 25,455,720 ± 1,915,139 euros) and Clariidae (mean catch volume = 5,144 ± 928 tons, mean commercial value= 8,796,917 ± 1,774,659 euros).

The AFMF recorded during the study period only one species of crustacean, 24 species of demersal fishes, one species of big pelagic and 17 species of small pelagic (Table 6). The recorded crustacean and big pelagic species included Panulirus sp. (mean catch volume = 0.4 ± 0.24 tons, mean commercial value = 4,466 ± 5,002 euros) and Istiophoridae/Xiphiidae (mean catch volume = 6.2 ± 1.06 tons, mean commercial value = 14,150 ± 2,242 euros), respectively. As for the demersal fishes, they were dominated by the same major species recorded in the ANMF, including G, decadactylus (mean catch volume = 129 ± 14 tons, mean commercial value= 2,17,230 ± 17,075 euros), Pseudotolithus spp. (mean catch volume = 1,130 ± 12 tons, mean commercial value= 5,18,999 ± 891 euros), Carcharhinus sp. (mean catch volume = 56 ± 9 tons, mean commercial value= 28,137 ± 611 euros) and C. brevipinna (mean catch volume = 48.8 ± 11.12 tons, mean commercial value= 24,217 ± 4,783 euros). Regarding the small pelagic species, they were mostly represented by E. alletteratus (mean catch volume = 292 ± 50 tons, mean commercial value= 11,362 ± 1,299 euros), Cypselurus spp. (mean catch volume = 279 ± 33 tons, mean commercial value= 14,150 ± 2,242 euros), S. tritor (mean catch volume = 260 ± 32 tons, mean commercial value = 868 ± 214 euros) and Caranx spp (mean catch volume = 187 ± 21 tons, mean commercial value= 4,29,517 ± 4,898 euros).

                                                                                          

Data collected credited the FIF with three crustacean species, 32 demersal species, one mollusc and seven small pelagic species (Table 7).  Crustacean species recorded were Panulirus sp., Penaeus sp. and P. validus, with a mean volume catch of 0.37 ± 0.06 tons, 0.65 ± 0.29 tons and 0.17 ± 0.11 tons, respectively. Demersal fishes were dominated by Albula vulpes (mean catch volume = 4.97 ± 1.70 tons, mean commercial value = 2.8 ± 3.18 euros), Cynoglossus sp. (mean catch volume = 7.75 ± 1.64 tons, mean commercial value = 5,052 ± 940 euros) and Zanobatus schoenleinii (mean catch volume = 7.05 ± 2.46 tons, mean commercial value = 2,279 ± 712 euros), whereas the small pelagic species were scarce and mostly represented by Cypselurus spp (mean catch volume = 1,325 ± 0.43 tons, mean commercial value = 1,621 ± 533 euros) and Alectis alexandrines (mean catch volume = 1.67 ± 0.95 tons, mean commercial value = 2,839 ± 1 603 euros).


 DISCUSSION

Diversity and general characteristics of fishing fleets in Benin

The thorough assessment of the fishing fleets described herein sheds new light on the internal organization of the fishery sector in Benin. Attempts to document both industrial and artisanal fleets as done in this study fills the gap of the global understudied state of the artisanal fishery sector observed by many studies (Tickler et al., 2018; Rousseau et al., 2019). Five fishing fleets including three artisanal and two industrial using various fishing gears were recorded in the country. These five fleets identified in Benin are similar in size and composition to those observed by Brinson et al. (2009) in Ghana and Senegal. The observed similarity in fishing fleets among these geographically closely-related countries is as a result of the actors operating in the industry in West Africa. Indeed, fishing activities in West Africa, particularly the artisanal sector is dominated by migrant fishermen from Ghana (Failler and Ferraro, 2021). Their massive presence in these countries coupled with their same fishing techniques justifies the observed trend. Among the characterized fishing fleets, four are marine-related, thus constituting 80% of the total fleet. This large predominance of marine fleets in the industry can be explained by the interest gained by this sector in West Africa over the past decades (Pazou et al., 2020). Indeed, due to the increasing seafood demand from Europe and Asia and the depletion of their local fish stock, over 70% of the European Union Seafood is being imported from the developing coastal countries, particularly from West Africa (Belhabib et al., 2015). As a result, many well equipped Chinese and European fishing companies have emerged in the industry in Benin, making the sector more mechanized than the continental one. On the other hand, due to the abundance of small pelagic fishes in West Africa and their associated high commercial value (Lozano-Bilbao et al., 2020), many migrant  fishermen  from  Ghana,  Nigeria  and  Togo  are currently operating in Benin (Latifou et al., 2020), making the sector more important than the continental one in terms of the number of fleets. However, the environmental impacts of these marine-related fleets as well as their contribution to socio-economic development need to be explicitly explored. Indeed, artisanal marine fisher folks in Ghana are noted for some environmentally unfriendly fishing techniques including the use of chemicals and explosives in fishing, the use of petrol or diesel, the light fishing, the transshipment commonly known as “saiko fishing” and the use of unauthorized mesh size among others (Afoakwah et al., 2018; Okyere et al., 2020).

Although four out of the five identified fishing fleets are marine-related, they depicted very low number of units as compared to the only one continental fleet. Table 1 show that an estimated number of 45,000 canoes operated in the inland fisheries sector in Benin from 2014 to 2018, against 679 canoes and vessels for the marine fleets. This concurs with the findings of Latifou et al. (2020) who observed that majority of the indigenous fisher folks operated in Benin fish from the inland waters. For instance, a fishery report published in 2010 reported that over 30,000 fisher folks were operating within the continental waters of the country against 3,596 fisher folks fishing within the sea (Latifou et al., 2020). This indicates that most fisher folks in Benin operate in the continental waters since marine fishing is highly demanding in terms of techniques, equipment, fishing inputs and operating costs (Kimani et al., 2020). However, the increasing number of units recorded in the continental fleet will undoubtedly exacerbate the dire situation of the already collapsing inland fishery resources in Benin (Kpanou et al., 2021). It is then important to engage inland fisher folks in some alternative livelihoods in order to curb additional pressures on the resources and ensure the replenishment of the Benin’s inland fish stock. Though few units were recorded for the marine fishery as compared to the continental one, the increase in seafood demand resulting from the current global population growth may impede the sustainability of marine resources in Benin going forward. There is then the need to engage stakeholders associated with the sector on regular basis in order to attain the effective resilience of these resources.  Fishing  gears  used  differ  according   to  the fleet, but remain similar for the marine-related fleets (Table 1). The fishing gears recorded in the framework of this study are consistent with those observed by previous research works, which documented the fishing gears used in the coastal and inland environments of Benin (Attingli et al., 2017; Codjo et al., 2020). They are also similar to those indicated by Fulanda et al. (2009) who documented the fishing gears used by migrant fishermen in Kenya, East Africa. This portrays the homogeneity in terms of the use of fishing gears in artisanal fisheries across Africa.  Direct observations from the fields also showed that fishing inputs such as fish nets and canoes used by the marine fleets are larger and stronger than the ones used by continental fisher folks. This may be due to the difference in the physical characteristics of the two environments. Indeed, the wind blowing from the seashore coupled with the strong wage and the tidal range make marine fishery more challenging than continental fishing. On the other hand, the fishing periods recorded for the different identified fleets are consistent with the findings of many authors.  Adeoti et al. (2018) and Latifou et al. (2020) observed that freshwater species are generally harvested in Benin throughout a yearly cycle, with the high productivity occurring from September to December, the medium productivity occurring from April to July and the low productivity happening in January, February, March, and August. Sossoukpe et al. (2016) explained that the production of fish species in Benin, particularly marine small pelagic fishes generally decrease from May to July because this period represents the transition between the wet and the dry season. This seasonal fish stock depletion results most of the time in the transition of a lot of fishermen from fishing to other unsustainable livelihood-support activities such as vegetable growing with chemical and pesticides and firewood collection and trading among others, with dire impacts on coastal and inland fragile ecosystems (Gnansounou et al., 2021).

Catch volume and commercial value

The mean annual production of the sector averaged 52,996  tons (Table  2). This  is  higher   than  the  figures observed by Latifou et al. (2020) who reported that the fisheries sector produces an average 30,000 tons of fish, shrimps and crabs every year. This increase in the mean annual production may be explained by the increase of fishing efforts driven by the large fish demand countrywide already reported by many authors (Sossoukpe et al., 2016; Kpanou et al., 2021). This may put additional pressure on the fish stock already shaken by human actions and climate-related impacts. However, the observations of the authors which informed that the inland fishery contributes more to the annual production of fishery resources in Benin concur with our results. This may be explained by the fact that most marine fleets land out of the country whilst the continental fleets make all their catch available in the country. Indeed, information collected indicated that all ANCF land their catches in the country whereas the FIF does not land its catch in Benin, but rather in Ghana. In addition, many fishermen belonging to the NIF and the ANMF land their catches in Nigeria (Table 1). These catches landed out of the country are not generally taken into account in the statistics of the DHP, making the contribution of the ANCF higher than the one of the marine-related fleets. In addition,  Ayoubi  and  Failler  (2013)   narrated   that  the annual marine fisheries’ production accounts just for the 5% of the total production of the entire sector, while the inland fishery produces the larger part. This aligns with our findings which demonstrate that the ANCF provides the important part of the annual landings of the fisheries sector (Table 2). This good performance of the continental fleet over the other marine fleets can also be because of the large number of fisher folks engaged in the continental fishing activities in Benin as compared to the marine sectors, since the marine sector is highly demanding in terms of techniques, equipment and production costs (Latifou et al., 2020). The fisheries sector, if well managed in Benin has the potential of producing spectacular results in terms of economic returns. As shown in Table 3, the sector generated an average of 82,194,096 euros per year from 2014 to 2018, with a large contribution of the continental fleet. This is consistent with the findings of Adeoti et al. (2018) who reported the economic significance of inland fisheries in Benin. The authors indicated that fishery activities in southern Benin generate a net daily benefit fluctuating from 45 euros to 65 euros, contributing to the wellbeing of the actors engaged in the sector. Belhabib et al. (2015) also emphasized on the economic performance of the sector in West Africa. However, many fisher folks are still living poor conditions, particularly in southern Benin, since fishing is a team work and the economic returns are equitably shared. Taking the case study of the European and Chinese industrial vessels, the authors established that over the 2000-2010 period, catches worth 8.3 billion euros were taken by European Union and Chinese industrial fleets operating in West Africa, including Benin.

Diversity of species landed and their commercial values

The dominant species landed per fleet in Benin and reported in this study are similar to those reported in the freshwater systems as well as the coastal and marine environment in West Africa (Starnes and Darwall, 2021). Fish species were mostly targeted and accounted for over 90% of the landings, whereas the other groups of species, including the crustacean and molluscs were scarce. This may be explained by consumers’ preference. Fish represents the mostly consumed fishing product in Benin (Afé et al., 2021). This is in line with Douny et al. (2021) who observed that fisherfolks generally target fish species, particularly those with high commercial value and available market in order to make profit.  Results of this study showed a difference in the species landed according to the fishing fleets. Species harvested by the continental fleet differ taxonomically from those collected in the marine-related fleets. This can be justified by the difference in physico-chemical characteristics of inland and marine waters. The continental waters are  generally  fresh  waters  while  the marine environment is made up of salty and brackish waters. This difference in nature leads to a difference in fish species composition of the two aquatic environments. Table 1 shows that national and foreign industrial fleets harvest not only demersal fishes but also some species of pelagic fishes. As industrial fleets operating in the high sea, these fleets are not supposed to harvest pelagic fishes inhabiting sunlit water above the continental shelf. Pelagic fishes are meant for the artisanal fisher folks who use gears and vessels of low capacity and operate in reachable area in short time (Gyan et al., 2020). The frequent harvesting of these pelagic fishes by the industrial fleets therefore poses severe threats to the sustainability of marine artisanal fishing and compromise food security and the livelihood of thousands of people including artisanal fisher folks, fishmongers and consumers in Benin.


 CONCLUSION

The fishery sector plays a pivotal role in the local economy and animal protein provision. The industry is characterized in Benin by five fishing fleets, comprising the ANCF, the Artisanal National Maritime Fleet (ANMF), the Artisanal Foreign Maritime Fleet (AFMF), the National Industrial Fleet (NIF) and the Foreign Industrial Fleet (FIF). However, the Artisanal National Continental Fleet performs better in terms of catch volume and economic returns, due to the large number of indigenous fisher folks interested in this fleet. The catches are relatively more diverse for ANMF (48 species) than AFMF (43 species), and FIF (40 species). Detailed studies are needed to identify catches at species level for ANCF, where most fishes were identified at family level. Furthermore, the per capita consumption of fish generated by the industry is very low and needs to be improved. New paradigms and management approaches are therefore essential to sustain the sector, under threat globally.


 CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

The authors have not declared any conflict of interest.


 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The authors are grateful for the support offered by the Management and Resilience of Small Pelagic Fisheries in West Africa-GREPPAO project, funding of this research by the European Union under the PESCAO programme (EuropeAid/158370/DD/ACT/Multi), piloted by the University of Portsmouth. The authors are also grateful to Mr. Faustin Hounkpatin for his assistance during data collection.



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