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Declining fish supply linked to wildlife consumption in West Africa, Science study reports

, an appreciation of the ways in which humans and their resources interact across ecosystems.

Wild animals from the tropics that are hunted for eventual human consumption are often grouped together under the label "bushmeat." Primates, big cats, elephants, antelope, porcupines, giant snails, tiny songbirds and most any other wild land animal from the tropics that hunters kill and sell or consume themselves can be considered bushmeat.

The multi-billion dollar bushmeat industry is a key contributor to local economies throughout the developing world. It is also among the most immediate threats to tropical wildlife.

The new Science study links escalations in the bushmeat trade to declines in fish supply and suggests that overfishing in the region will further complicate biodiversity conservation on land. Connections between the over-harvesting of fish and increased pressure on terrestrial wildlife are probably not restricted to Ghana or West Africa. Other industrialized nations need to recognize the consequences of their subsidized fishing ventures on terrestrial ecosystems in the developing world, according to Brashares.

The authors calculated the total catch of the European Union foreign fleet in Africa using fisheries harvest data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The declines in per capita fish supply the scientists cite are largely caused by increases in human population size. Fish catches have increased during the study period due to greatly expanded fishing efforts.

"We need people working together across disciplines to look at how losses of marine resources are impacting land resources, and vice versa," Brashares said.

Brashares first became interested in the bushmeat trade when he saw its impact on the West Africa ecosystems he was studying as a doctoral student.

When a former vice president of Ghana made the observation that political and social discontent
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Contact: Jessica Lawrence-Hurt
jlawrenc@aaas.org
1-202-326-7088
American Association for the Advancement of Science
11-Nov-2004


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