Africa: What Future for West African Fisheries?

press release

Every year, World Oceans Day is an important opportunity for us to reflect on our campaign to protect West Africa's ocean ecosystems.

This year Greenpeace Africa and Senegalese fishing associations are marking the day with a public statement to fishing authorities in Senegal, clearly laying out our vision for how ocean resources can be used sustainably to ensure healthy oceans and healthy people.

Here in Senegal, as in most other regions of the world, our oceans are in crisis mode. Industrial large-scale fishing methods are literally sucking the life out of our seas, seriously jeopardising marine ecosystems, the livlihoods of fisher folk, and a vital source of protein for people around the world, not just in Africa.

Add to this the expansion of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (which robs coastal states of millions of Euros on an annual basis), and on has a veritable recipe for the complete collapse of our oceans.

As an Oceans Campaigner in Africa, I've often come face-to-face with how depleted fish-stocks are impacting fishing communities. The picture is alarming!

From Saint Louis to Cape Skiring, through Kayar, Face Boye, Mbour, Joal, Kafountine, and among other fishing villages, thousands of small-scale fisherfolk are facing unemployment or are endangering their lives as they sail further and further out to see, fishing for increasingly rare catches. The choice they face is stark and brutal: Sail off into the ocean for days at a time in a slim little boat, or stay home unemployed with no food on the table.

Against this backdrop we find the so-called Monster Boats, those gigantic fishing vessels capable of hauling enough fish in a single day to feed 9,000 Senegalese people - only they don't; most of the fish they catch is exported out of Africa. Monster Boats suck up everything in their passage, emptying seas from one region to another, leaving behind them emptied oceans and desperate local fisherfolk.

As a result, conflicts between local fishing communities people and migrants, on the one hand, and between fishermen and state officials, on the other hand, have been growing. Unfortunately, the riots of May 29 between fishermen at the Thiaroye village and surveillance officers are a very recent example of this conflict.

But there is Hope!

Looking into this sad reality, fishing communities and civil society have not remained idle. Right across the country they are joining forces and calling on decision makers for sustainable and equitable fishing policies.

Their efforts were well rewarded in 2012, when, under pressure from various players, the newly elected Senegalese government cancelled the fishing licences of 29 international fishing trawlers.

More recently the collective has been working to influence a new fisheried agreement between Senegal and the European Union.

The reality is that we still have a mighty long way to go in safeguarding our ocean and the life it contains, but it's also true that we're strong now than we've ever been. And as the theme of this year's World Ocean Day says:

"Together we have the power to protect the ocean!"

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