My years as an oceans campaigner in Senegal have really allowed me to understand many facets of illegal fishing in this part of the world. Along with the devastating effects it has on fishing communities, slashing jobs and the size of catches, it also means local communities have less to eat – not to mention the impact that overfishing has on ocean ecosystems and fishstocks.
In recent years Greenpeace Africa has run a number of projects to highlight and document these impacts. Together with local people and fishing alliances on the ground we have also called on leaders to take the necessary steps towards eradicating illegal fishing activity in our oceans.
And it seems our message is finally being heard…
We’ve just heard that a group of experts and former African heads of state have now officially recognised illegal fishing as a priority that African leaders must address for the well-being of their people and the health of our oceans.
The latest of these is the Africa Progress Panel (AAP), headed by former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, from Ghana.
This is really great for us as an entire chapter of this report is devoted to the work done by Greenpeace in West Africa!
For me, this recognition by such heavy-weight leaders is a crucial step towards stopping illegal fishing in the region. But it’s still not enough: to finally overcome this problem, regional and international cooperation is essential, and at the regional level, things are starting to move.
Joint surveillance operations between a number of West African countries, where together they patrol the region’s oceans for illegal activity, are a good example of this regional cooperation – and we need to see more of this type of thing, more frequently and on a larger scale.
I truly believe that if we look after our oceans and take better care of the life they hold, they’ll return the favour for generations to come. Illegal and unreported fishing by foreign vessels is a major threat to the health of our waters – and by extension to ourselves and our families. It’s great to see that the issue is finally getting the urgent attention it deserves – now we’re just looking for the action!