African Voices Tour

Letting African Fishermen Speak Out About EU Overfishing

Feature story - April 5, 2011
Overfishing deeply touches the lives of many Africans, depriving entire communities of their livelihoods. The African Voices Tour hopes to change that.

Young boys playing with the catch in a small fishing community at Corniche Ouest. Sadly as EU fleets have moved into West African waters, the families of these boys have found it increasingly difficult to make a decent catch.

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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.

What are the main objectives of the project?

The main goal of the project is to allow African Fishermen to talk to EU decision makers about the consequences overfishing is having on their way of life. As the ones who directly experience the impacts of overfishing and the destruction of marine ecosystems, the African fishermen can provide a strong moral and socio-economic imperative for changing the way the EU catches and consumes fish, in particular from the waters of poor countries. Through the project, Greenpeace would like to create a space where these issues can be openly discussed, and solutions found.

Where will the fisherman be going in Europe?

Together with Greenpeace the fishermen will be visiting EU parliaments around Europe, talking with journalists, government officials, industrial fishing bodies, and civil society groups.

What are the expected outcomes of the project?

As fish stocks in European waters continue to decline, EU fleets have been moving into foreign waters to sustain the supply of fish to European markets. This is not a fair practice because it deprives local African communities of food and destroys their marine ecosystems.

Instead the EU should act immediately to reduce fishing pressure on its own stocks through the creation of marine reserves, and by mandating fleet reductions and a shift towards more sustainable fishing practices. Simply moving to new waters when their own are depleted is not a just practice.

The new CFP must ensure that the EU’s external fleets operate under the same or equivalent regulatory and compliance regime as its domestic fleets, and that seafood imports meet equivalent environmental and social standards. All external fishing arrangements and investment schemes in which EU governments and EU-based companies engage, should be conducted in the spirit of cooperation and solidarity, and should aim to meet the UN millennium goals.

Watch this space for regular updates from the African fismermen as they travel around Europe to tell their stories. Updates will include blogs, image galleries, and feature stories.