Greenpeace activists paint 'Stolen Fish' and occupy the illegal cargo vessel Binar 4 full of fish taken from Guinean waters to prevent unloading. For too long now West African fisheries have been plundered by foreign fleets -- it's time for more equality in how they are used.
© Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes
While the controversy sorrounding the overfishing by European vessels in West African waters is swelling, the European Commission is set to adopt a new project to preserve overexploited fish stocks in its waters. The project has been criticised by Greenpeace Africa, outraged by the EU’s double standards.
"While EU seeks to ensure the sustainability of the resource in its waters and save the jobs and well-being of its fishermen, its fleet is seriously harming West African fishermen and marine ecosystems" said Raoul Monsembula of Greenpeace Africa.
He adds "we are asking the European Union to be guided by the same principles and concerns of sustainability of the resource in its fishing policy with West Africa countries; and to African governments not to endanger the livelihoods of their communities."
This overfishing reduction project in Europe is worrying all the more as the future of this fleet with excess capacity remains unknown. "We risk seeing all these vessels invade West African waters" adds Raoul Monsembula of Greenpeace Africa.
As early as late February and April 2010, during an expedition led by Greenpeace, 12 of the 50 largest and most powerful vessels of the EU, classification based on their tonnage of more than 3000 GT, the power of their engine and / or the length of these vessels over 100 meters, have been identified in West African waters between Las Palmas and the southern border of Senegal.
"As the European Union is worried about the future of its fisheries and fishermen, so should it be for West African fisheries and fishermen who suffer from the activities of its fleet, mainly responsible for overfishing in West Africa", added Iris Menn of Greenpeace.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 72% of European fish stocks are overexploited. Among them, over 20% are exploited beyond safe biological limit, that is to say beyond their normal reproduction capacity.
A reduction of the fishing activity for some years will help restore stocks to a level enabling fishermen to catch and earn more income than now, without depleting the resource in the long term, says the Commission.
This situation is not too different from the one experienced in West Africa waters which are unfortunately not subject to a special attention from the EU.