…my biggest inspiration is the faces of the local fishermen that I had made friends with, who stay next to the ocean in Dakar, Senegal…
The date is 1st March 2010. I am on the Arctic Sunrise (AS) ship and my name is Tshepo Nkopane, I work as a fundraiser in Johannesburg for Greenpeace Africa. At the moment here but water around us, the dolphins have come out to play, the raging ocean is a little calmer than previous days and sea sickness is a bit less - mind you it is my first time being at sea for more than 3 hours! I have been getting to know Amrid, Faye and Phil.
Phil will be teaching me more about deckhand duties for the next five to six weeks. I also have the pleasure of meeting Yvette the Oceans campaigner from the Netherlands, then Jari who will be doing the filming, Raoul the Greenpeace Africa forest campaigner from Congo and many more people who love this planet and have dedicated their lives into preserving it for the next generation.
Right now I’m thinking to myself - it doesn’t get better than this. All these different cultures all speaking in different languages all gathered in Africa to make a difference. This to me is more valuable than the world cup coming to South Africa in June. this is Greenpeace Africa!
On the 2nd of March 2010 we arrive in Mauritanian waters at around 2pm we will target an EU vessel. We are now in the fishing grounds, heading west 275 degrees troupers (??) from Mauritania at the speed of 10,2 knots. We run into smaller local fishing vessels and our target seems to have moved so we head south. Sooner or later something will turn up and there are many other EU fishing vessels at this time of the year.
At 3:15pm we find a vessel and it is huge! We hurry to release our inflatable boat into the water and we head straight towards it - this is a trawling ship and is trawling at the moment- as soon as they see us approaching they run away from us at a speed that would destroy whatever fish they had in the net. When we communicate with them via Radio and tell them we are Greenpeace they curse at us and they call us all sorts of disgusting names. Obviously they are familiar with the organization.
It doesn’t help us much as we were hoping that they would let us on board and hopefully, allow us to document them, since they are a legal fishing company and are part of the EU. Nevertheless our determination is everlasting as we look for another ship.
My biggest inspiration is the faces of the local fishermen that I had made friends with, who stay next to the ocean in Dakar, Senegal. They find less fish because bigger foreign fishing vessels are taking the food out of their mouths. I can still hear the sound the sound of their children begging for money and I can never forget the shocking site of vendors aggressively begging us to buy their wares. When we told them to back off, they would say “please I am doing this for my children”.
Fish is their major resource and fishing is how they grew up, for some of the locals it is the only way they can make money, but every day the richer countries especially from the European countries are taking away this precious resource from them. My Senegalese friend who goes by the name Jumbo said to me “please take me to your country so I can be a rich man like you and see the world cup”. That really broke my heart because I am far from rich. I am just a normal boy in South Africa, but at least I get hot water in the shower, I eat three meals a day and I don’t have to beg anyone for anything.
This experience has taught me to be grateful, to appreciate the little that I have and not to be wasteful - because some people would be more than happy to live what I would call terrible life.