"Make Fishing a Priority Now!"

6,000 Senegalese make the call

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Feature story - January 24, 2012
We asked Senegalese fishermen what they want their government to do for the local fishing industry. Instead of one answer, we received a shout, a cry, a unanimous chorus – “Make sustainable fishing a priority!”

Local fishermen, from the community in Joal, express their concerns about the intensifying plunder of their marine resources by placing hand-prints on a large banner reading “Your voice counts, make it heard now.” © Clément Tardif / Greenpeace

 

On 14 January, we launched the “My Voice, My Future” caravan which toured through the main cities and villages in Senegal to talk with local fishermen and women about sustainable fishing along the West African coast.

The fisheries are a vital aspect of the economy as fishing provides income to many communities in Senegal. Almost one million people are employed by the country’s fishing sector, including fishermen, processors, wholesalers, carriers, and vendors.

However, despite the importance of fishing, “the sector has never been subject to proactive policies that promote preservation, and protect the interests of coastal fishing communities,” said Raoul Monsembula, Greenpeace Africa Oceans Campaigner.

An effect of this has been that many foreign fleets have been overfishing African seas and exporting their catch back to Europe and Asia. Unfortunately this overfishing often persists thanks to the complicity of dishonest civil servants.

So, just weeks before the next presidential election, our tour was an opportunity to meet with fishing communities to discuss the threats facing the fishing sector. The message we heard from each and every group was the same: future leaders must provide guarantees that fisheries will be better managed.

Greenpeace and 400 local school children create a human 'fish' banner, to mark the end of the"My Voice, My Future" Caravan launch. Organised by Greenpeace, the “My Voice, My Future” caravan documents small-scale fishing communities and the impact of foreign super-trawlers on local fish stocks. © Clément Tardif / Greenpeace

 

We illustrated this message by asking each person we met with to make a handprint on a giant banner in support of sustainable fishing. We hoped to collect 3,000 handprints during the tour, but after touring through nine cities, an astounding 6,000 signatures were collected!

Eager to make their voices heard, fishermen and women responded to our call from all over Senegal, some coming by canoe from 6 – 8 km away, just to add their handprint to the banner.

The “My Voice, My Future” tour ended with a beautiful human banner in the shape of a fish, formed by 400 schoolchildren. The giant banner with all the handprints ran down the fish’s side.

 “It is high time for policy-makers to make sustainable fisheries a priority -- not only for survival of the fishing sector, but also for the well-being of current and future generations,” said Monsembula.  

Greenpeace and small-scale fishermen urge presidential candidates to stop issuing fishing authorizations to foreign vessels, and to support the local fishing sector. 

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