We’re at the fishing port of Mbour, 80 km from Dakar, one of the largest ports in Senegal. After spending 8 hours at sea defying waves and bad weather with low morale, Ndiaga Diop, a local fisherman, returns home with an almost empty net. Fish, which was once available, is now a rare commodity. And this isn’t an isolated case.
All along Africa’s West coast, and in many other parts of the world, it’s evident that our oceans are in a crisis which is threatening ocean ecosystems and the health and well being of billions of people who depend on them for their livelihood.
Not a single day goes by without new scientific studies sounding the alarm on how shocking the current situation of our oceans is. Pollution, acidification, overfishing, offshore oil exploration, climate change, and poor governance - these are just a few of the challenges our oceans are facing.
In addition, about 30% of fishstocks are overfished, which is leading to unemployment and contributing to growing poverty in fishing communities – as Ndiaga can attest to.
But fortunately there are solutions.
There are continuous meetings about the future of our oceans and how they can be better managed. The challenge lies in implementing recommendations and plans that would safeguard ocean life.
Sadly too many of these aren’t implemented, they just get packed away in dusty drawers.
While the road is still long and rough, we do not have the right to give up. If we sit and do nothing, our oceans could easily become a watery desert and this will have drastic impacts on the world in general and Africa in particular.
We must continue to defend our common heritage. We must continue pressuring our leaders to start taking action. It is important that we become more aware of our ocean resources and where our seafood is coming from.
Here in Senegal, Greenpeace is campaigning for an end to overfishing in West African waters. We are pushing for more sustainable practices and policies that will help develop a fishing industry managed and funded by Africans, while protecting our oceans and marine life. If managed carefully, fishing can be the basis for healthy and vibrant communities, ensuring food security and employment to current and future populations.
Until then, fishermen like Ndiaga are committed to working with other local fishermen to put pressure on the Senegalese authorities. They’re calling for the same things we are: an end to overfishing and illegal practices that are destroying Senegalese fisheries.
(1) COPACE, 20è session, Rabat , Maroc du 14 au 16 mars 2012. disponible dans: http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/024/an152f.pdf