Key figures: 

EEZ: 105,000 km2

Catches: 130,000 tons/year

Artisanal fleet: 1.520

Motorized: 16.2 %

Jobs: 32,000

Consumption: 18 kg/hab/yr

Exports: 0.20 M USD

Share in exports: 1.2 %

Fisheries context

Guinea-Bissau covers a surface area of 36,125 km2 and its population is estimated in 2016 at 1,580,000 inhabitants with an annual growth rate of 2.5%. GDP per capita is USD 479.33 and life expectancy is 45 years. About 70% of Bissau-Guineans live in rural areas.

Guinea-Bissau has a coastline of approximately 274 km deeply indented by ten estuaries and a large archipelago, the Bijagós, composed of 80 islands and islets. There is an abundance of mangroves which cover 3,400 km2 i.e. almost 10% of the national territory (one of the largest in the world).

Its territorial waters extend up to the outer limits of this archipelago, which determine the baseline beyond which an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles is measured covering a surface area of 105,000 km2. Guinea-Bissau’s continental shelf covers an area of 45,000 km2, representing the second largest in the sub-region. This geographical layout and the humid tropical climate are conducive for high fish productivity, with a predominance of demersal species (fish, shrimps, cephalopods) and small coastal pelagics (ethmalosa and golden sardinella).

Fisheries however has hardly any impact as a proportion of GDP. Its share has never exceeded 4%. It nonetheless contributes to the national budget with funds from financial compensation received through fishing agreements with the European Union in particular and the delivery of fishing permits.

Artisanal fisheries exports were estimated at 21,890 tons per year in 2011. Exports of processed fish to Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Senegal are not taken into consideration in light of their highly dispersed distribution channels. Enhancement of fisheries products at the local level could have contributed to creating value added as well as jobs, but the lack of port infrastructure and facilities for storage and processing of products has defeated this objective.

Fish consumption per capita varies between 16 and 18 kg.

Institutional framework

The Department of State for Fisheries is in charge of fisheries development and management in Guinea-Bissau. It implements the fisheries policy based on the general law on fisheries and its implementing orders (see compendium of laws, implementing orders and institutional mechanisms; Decree Law nr. 4 of 1994 on the fisheries sector – Official Bulletin).

The General Directorate of Industrial Fisheries and the General Directorate of Artisanal Fisheries are in charge of the management of resources in waters under the jurisdiction of Guinea-Bissau.

The Centre for Applied Fisheries Research (CIPA) is a scientific public body in charge of assessing stocks and monitoring fisheries at the country level. It also conducts sanitary control of fisheries products for the domestic and export markets.

The Fisheries Surveillance Service (FISCAP) ensures compliance with existing regulations.

The objectives of the Fisheries Sectoral Strategy fall in line with those of the Government’s Programme and the second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (DENARP II 2011-2015), which was adopted as the National development plan and is currently being revised. Moreover, in 2014, the Government adopted a fisheries strategic development plan for the 2015-2020 period. It is currently being implemented.


Artisanal fisheries

According to a socio-economic survey conducted in 2011, the artisanal fisheries sub-sector employs, directly or indirectly, nearly 26,000 people including 4,500 fishers of whom 1,500 have their own canoes.

Artisanal fisheries is characterized by the widely scattered locations of landing sites (about 200 sites in total) and a very low motorization rate (15%).

The annual production of the sub-sector is estimated between 30,000 and 45,000 tons.

Rural populations exploit coastal resources adjacent to their surroundings. Fishing gears used are mostly traditional (creels, canoes with oars). It is worth noting that in close proximity, there is a very dynamic artisanal maritime fisheries linked to the international market and highly dominated by foreign communities (Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, Ghana and Sierra Leone) who use cargo canoes.

In 2011, about 1,520 boats were identified of which 16.2% were equipped with an outboard motor.

Industrial fisheries

Industrial fishing activities can be conducted through four access modes: national vessels, charter permits, fisheries partnership agreement with the European Union, and fisheries agreement with other countries (China, Russia and Senegal).

State of the resources

Guinea-Bissau does not have resources of its own to assess stocks within its EEZ. Assessments are conducted with the support of research vessels of other research centres in the sub-region or through international cooperation agreements.

The scientific campaign in 2011 on stock assessment conducted by CIPA with the support of IMROP revealed an overall potential (biomass) of 579,021 tons for the different species including 102,768 tons of demersal fish, 452,000 tons of pelagic fish, 14,958 tons of shellfish, and 9,295 tons of cephalopods.

Catches of national and foreign vessels were estimated in 2015 at 100,000 tons for industrial fishing and 26,000 tons for artisanal fishing. About 75% of catches is composed of pelagic species (mullet, ethmalosa, horse mackerel, mackerel and sardinella) compared to 25% of demersal species. Chinese and European vessels as well as Senegalese artisanal units fish demersal species (cephalopods and shrimps). Pelagic species are caught by national artisanal fishers and foreign vessels from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Access to the resource

As Guinea-Bissau does not have a national fleet capable of harvesting resources under its jurisdiction, it decided to sign fisheries agreements with other countries granting them fishing permits. Within this context, the European Union and Guinea-Bissau signed a framework agreement in 1980 and several successive protocols have since been established. The most recent protocol extends over a period of three years, from November 2014 to November 2017. In the past years, about 180 vessels, including freezer trawlers, tuna seiners and clippers, have operated each year in Guinea-Bissau’s maritime waters. In 2015, nearly 70% of these vessels were operating within the framework of fisheries agreements.

A protocol to the partnership agreement between the EU and Guinea-Bissau was signed in November 2014. It extends over a three-year period and provides for a financial contribution to support Guinea-Bissau’s fisheries policy. This agreement authorizes EU vessels mainly from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and France to fish in Bissau-Guinean waters. It is part of the network of tuna fisheries agreements in West Africa.

The Chinese fleet, chartered vessels and national vessels mostly land demersal and pelagic fish in Bissau to supply the domestic market.