This is part three of the Afican Voices tour through Europe, you can catch-up on the other tour diaries here:
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.
The thrid team in the African Voices project -- made-up of M. Abdou Karim Sall (fisherman from Joal, Senegal), M. Ahmedou Ould Beyih (fisherman from Nouadhibou, Mauritania), and Raoul from Greenpeace Africa -- arrived in Madrid, without any of our luggage, on the afternoon of May 9th.
We were received by the Oceans campaign team of Greenpeace Spain, and immediately got down to preparations and planning for the meetings we had planned for the coming week.
On the Monday we met the rest of our colleaugues at Greenpeace Spain, who were all very interested in the experiences of West African fisherman, and the solutions we were proposing to the problem of overfishing.
In the afternoon of May 11th we had a lunch-time discussion with a Spanish NGO interested in the question of development in West Africa. This was followed by a series of interviews, one of which was with a national radio station, on a programe called "Socidaridad".
The next day started with a breakfast meeting with two of the biggest supermarkets in Spain (Carrefour and El Corte Ingles). After that we met with Greenpeace's International Director, Kumi Naidoo, for more than an hour. He was fascinated by what we had to say, and was very encouraging of our efforts, wishing us good luck. We ended off Wednesday by meeting with Ms Nuria Buenaventura, the deputy of the Greens in the Spanish Congress.
Thursday, May 12th, was a particularly intersting day for us. Along with the director of Greenpeace Spain and the international director of Greenpeace, we met with the spanish Minister for the Environment and Marine Affairs, Ms Rosa Aguilar Riviero, who was accompanied by the Secretray General of of the Ocean and the Director of Marine Resources and aquaculture.
In each of these meetings, the African fisherment kept the same stern message: "If the EU cannot change the nature of the agreements signed with West African countries, if good governance and transparency aren't made part of these agreements, and if poor monitoring and unsustainable fishing methods go on unchanged, over the coming years we will be complicit, not only in the extinction of many marine species, but also in the starvation of many people, left for dead in a watery dessert" said Karim.
"There is a real need for West African artisanal fishermen to take part in the negotation of these fishing accords, not just as observers, but as active participants. West African fishermen -- those most suffering the effects of industrial fishing by EU trawlers -- expect to be included in the negotiation process, said Ahmedou.
Up to now, Karim and Ahmedou's message has been clear and unambiguous -- it's what excites and inspires those who hear it most.
From Madrid to Corogne
After our long trip from Madrid to Corogne (about 600km), the 'African Voices' and myself arrived at the coastal town where we were very warmly recieved that night by West African fishermen immagrants and Spanish craftspeople.
Saturday, May 14, began with a tour of the harbor, boats and fishing gear used by the artisanal fishermen from Spain. Leaving the harbour, there was a discussion about the boats and gear used by the spaniards. The African fishermen had been impressed by the quality and nature of the boats they used, saying that if such boats were to arrive at Joal (a town in Senegal), there would be a risk that local fishermen would contribute to the current overfishing, given the boats' speed and stability. They'd also be able to go much further out into the sea, said Abdou Karim Sall.
The day ended with an exhange of expereinces at a workshop organised by a Spanish NGO ‘ECODESARROLLO GAIA’ who works to promote the integration of West African fishermen into Spainish communities. "The and exchanges we had were fruitful. The difference between us and our counterparts here, is that they are much more organised than we are," Ahmedou Ould Beyih commented (one of the fishermen from Mauritania with us on the tour).
Although this workshop was in Spain, far from West Africa, it wasn't uncommon to hear exchanges taking place in Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania.