What is the African Voices Tour?
As European waters have become increasingly overfished, massive European fishing vessels have moved into West African waters to continue their fishing for European markets. For local fishermen in Senegal, Cape Verde and Mauritania, these fleets are having a severe impact on the fisheries, making it very difficult for them to feed their families.
Greenpeace Africa wants to change that.
Nine representatives from fishing communities in West Africa will travel to Europe, together with Raoul Monsembula, Oumy Sene, and Prudence Wanko, from Greenpeace Africa. They've arranged meetings with European politicians and they hope to change the EU policy on fishing in African seas.
Their timing is good. This year leaders in Brussels are working on a new European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and there is a real chance that through this project we can get more protection for the African oceans. For more information about the project, click here.
This is a diary of the 'African Voices Tour' through Europe:
Ostende, Belgium - 12 April 2011
We left Ostend very early this morning to visit the Zeebruges fish market -- in the top 10 of Europe's 450 fish markets. Roughly 10% of the fish sold here is from overseas, most probably from African countries.
The setup is very modern, with an elaborate electronics sysyem which permits you to buy fish online from any location in Europe. We met Maritz and his wife, a couple of artisanal fisherfolk who practice sustainable fishing, unlike the bulk of fishermen we saw there.
It was sad to realise that the realities of the European artisanale fishermen are the same as those of their African conterparts. Fish stocks have also declined tremendously and the artisanale fisherman finds it increasingly difficult to earn a living from their catch.
Luxemburg - 11 April 2011
Today we met with the governement of Luxemburg, and it went fantastically! We even had the opportunity to meet with the Vice-Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister. They stated in front of the press that they support 100% of our demands; in the context of CFP the governmental doors are now officially open for us to debate and discuss the issues that European fishing activities are having on the lives of Africans.
Brussels - 7 April 2011
Today we had our first political meeting in Belgium: a lunch with some members of the Environment & Fisheries Committees of the Flemish Parliament. It was really great that all the important parties were represented. Issa, Mamadou, Celestino -- the three African fishermen on this leg of the tour -- gave passionate testimonies that impressed everyone in the room. The MPs proposed to draft a resolution calling the Government to take a progressive stance regarding the external impact of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Meeting with Belgian MPs
Today we met with members of the Belgian parliament. The MPs proposed to draft a resolution calling the Government to take a progressive stance regarding the external impact of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Amsterdam – 6 April 2011
It warms my hear to learn that our 'African Voices' were heard by 288 000 television viewers yesterday (on the TV show "Uitgesproken" here in Holland). Today we met with Dutch parliament at the Hague -- something we are very excited about. The local association which represents large European fishing vessels did not miss the opportunity to argue that African governments also have a responsibility to play in the security of West African fisheries, especially since they are signutaries on the fishing aggreements. But -- in my opinion -- that does not excuse the large-scale decimation of african fisheries by those European vessels! It seems that once again our project has managed to open the debate around EU fishing licences and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Amsterdam – 5 April 2011
Today's programme was pretty relaxed. We started with a series of photos and interviews with the communications team from Greenpeace Netherlands, and then returned to the hotel -- so that the fishermen could relax ahead of tomorrow's big day. We will be meeting with the Dutch parliament at the Hague.
Amsterdam - 4 April 2011
We started the day with a TV interview in the Arctic Sunrise (one of the Greenpeace ships). The interview will be shown on a TV show called called “Uitgesproken” -- apparently a very well-watched programme. The 3 Africa fishermen explained the purpose of their visit to Europe with Greenpeace, and described the impacts overfishing was having on their livelihoods. They urged the EU to reduce the foreign fleet in African waters, and called on them to engage in more sustainable fishing practices in order to secure a future for their children.
We then visited Jean and Barbara, a Dutch couple of the last remaining small-scale traditional fishermen, fishing in a sustainable way in the northern Dutch sea, and selling their catch at an organic market in Amsterdam. We were surprised to realise that their expereinces were similar to those of many African fisherfolk: With no more fish in their waters, the were losing income and were pursuing other means to making a living.
In the evening we got cozy by the TV, waiting for our interview to show. It was another very successful day.