Exposed: Illegal Fishing in West African Seas

We take action on illegal trawler fishing in West African seas

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Feature story - February 24, 2012
Today Greenpeace activists caught a Russian-flagged vessel fishing illegally in Senegalese waters, painting the hull of the trawler with the word “Pillage” (the French word for plunder).

Greenpeace and Senegalese Fishermen Tackle Overfishing

Activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise paint "Pillage and Plunder" on side of pirate Russian pelagic fishing trawler Oleg Naydenov, off the coast of Senegal. Greenpeace is campaigning in West Africa for the establishment of a sustainable, low impact fisheries policy that takes into account the needs and interests of small-scale fishermen and the local communities that depend on healthy oceans. 02/24/2012 © Pierre Gleizes / Greenpeace

 

The 120 meter-long "Oleg Naydenov" is one example of the enormous foreign fleet of foreign trawlers operating in West Africa’s waters.

According to Senegal’s fishing law they are not permitted to fish in the specific body of water where this particular ship was found (immediately north of the Gambian border).

Activists 'unmask' trawler fishing illegally

Activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise pull down the canvas hiding the name of pirate Russian pelagic fishing trawler Oleg Naydenov off the coast of Senegal. Greenpeace is campaigning in West Africa for the establishment of a sustainable, low impact fisheries policy that takes into account the needs and interests of small-scale fishermen and the local communities that depend on healthy oceans. 02/24/2012 © Pierre Gleizes / Greenpeace

 

Hiding ship names and call signs under large banners or nets is a common practice of vessels trying to avoid identification whilst fishing illegally.

“Not only are these trawlers emptying our waters, but they also show a tremendous lack of respect for our fishing laws,” said Raoul Monsembula, Greenpeace oceans campaigner.

The capacity of these super trawlers is simply massive. Often the they are over 100 meters long and pull behind them trawling nets that are up to 700 meters long and 50 meters wide. They can catch up to 250 tons of fish a day – a catch that is literally emptying the sea, making it very difficult for local fishermen to make a living.

Recent studies show that overfishing in Senegalese waters threatens the sustainability of several fish species like Sardinella and horse mackerel. 

"If the government misses the current moment to turn the tide and stop the foreign plunder of our waters, our stocks will collapse, and with them the local artisanal fishing sector“, warns Monsembula.

As Senegal prepares for presidential elections, Greenpeace calls on Senegalese presidential candidates to revoke existing fishing licences granted to foreign industrial trawlers and to implement an immediate moratorium on the signing of new licences. Senegalese authorities should also prosecute companies found to be involved in illegal fishing activities.

“We are campaigning for the establishment of a sustainable, low impact fisheries policy that takes into account the needs and interests of small-scale fishermen and the local communities that depend on healthy oceans," said Monsembula.

The Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace ship, will sail the Senegalese coast for the coming days to document and expose overfishing by foreign (and often illegal) trawlers.