Some 1.5m tonnes of fish with an estimated value of $2.5bn are caught in West African waters every year, according to the World Bank.
However, overexploitation, poor management and illegal fishing mean the level of return is far lower than it could be.
Better governance and management of fisheries could generate an additional $300m and prompt greater local investment from industry in West Africa, the bank said.
African countries are “at the forefront of building awareness and reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”, including Sierra Leone’s enforcement of a six-mile trawler-free zone over two years, which resulted in increased catches from coastal fishermen.
To push for further government reform around fisheries the bank is hosting a conference in Ghana, which ends today, for journalists to improve reporting and raise awareness of the issues.
“The marine fish stocks in the waters of Africa are a cornerstone of food and nutritional security, livelihoods, social safety nets and jobs,” said the bank.
“It is expected that accurate reporting will build the awareness needed in countries, create a better enabling environment for the reforms governments have engaged in and secure the sustainable productivity of the fishery resource.”
The bank added: “The world’s fisheries contribute significantly to reducing extreme poverty, building climate resilient communities, food security, and fostering strong economies.
“Globally, one billion people in developing countries depend on fish for their primary source of protein. The value of traded fisheries in developing countries is estimated at $25bn, making it their most significant traded product.”
The conference is being co-hosted by the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) in collaboration with USAID and the West Africa Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission.