Responsible Fishing Practices Critical

Greenpeace reiterates point to EU delegation in Senegal

Feature story - July 20, 2011
Greenpeace today re-affirmed the need for sustainable fisheries in response to certain assertions made by the European Union office in Senegal on its overfishing campaign in West Africa. Greenpeace welcomes a dialogue with the EU Senegal office on the role of the EU in fisheries management in the region; and wish to reiterate the accuracy of our statements.

Trawler Burma Peche 5 fishing in West Africa

Photo Credit: © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

Greenpeace has been investigating and documenting over-fishing in West Africa for over five years and recently opened a regional campaign office that is operating out of Dakar.

“We are concerned about the state of fish stocks and the marine environment in the wider West African region and not only campaigning against overfishing in Senegal, but along the entire coastline of West Africa. We share the EU concerns regarding the impact of Chinese and Russian fleets on the state of the stock across the entire region. But just because other fishing nations are also active in the region the EU cannot brush away its own responsibility to ensure sustainable and responsible fishing practices across the board,” said Raoul Monsembula, Oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

The EU has a long history of fishing in the region. According to the EU’s own data, the mixed fisheries agreements in West Africa allow for the simultaneous access of a maximum of 177 freezer trawlers and 40 pelagic fishing freezer trawlers, plus 110 vessels for fresh fishing. In addition to this there are a number of tuna vessels fishing under agreements with Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea and São Tomé and Principe”, Monsembula continued.

Currently seven of the EU’s 16 fisheries agreements are with countries in West Africa. 718 vessels flagged to EU states fish outside the region’s waters. Of these, approximately 300 operate in West African waters.

“We agree that much of the EU catch of sardine, sardinella, horse mackerel or mackerel is destined for markets in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Angola, South Africa and also Russia and the Ukraine. Large and destructive bottom trawlers, on the other hand, catch octopus, squid, shrimp or hake, most of which are destined for the European market. The catch destined for the EU market consists of around 35,000 tonnes annually,” said Monsembula.

“It seems nobody really knows how many Asian and Russian vessels plough the waters of West Africa. This is why the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise recorded the activities of foreign fleets in the waters of Mauritania and Senegal in March 2010. During the five-weeks expedition we encountered 93 foreign fishing vessels, of which at least 61 belonged to the EU," added Monsembula.

The European Union is currently undergoing a reform process of their Common Fisheries Policy in which sustainable fishing is one of the priorities of the EU fisheries chief, Maria Damanaki, who recently stated that local fishermen must have priority to the fish and that the EU would in future ensure that it doesn’t overfish stocks in foreign waters.

“Europe shifted part of its problem to foreign waters but many fisheries in West Africa are in dire straits; fish stocks are diminishing and can no longer provide a stable source of food for local fishing populations. Therefore they need to fulfil their responsibility that ensures sustainable fisheries in their own waters before shifting capacities. The time to act is now, we cannot shift blame to others. West Africa urgently needs sustainable and responsible fishing practices”, Monsembula concluded.

Extra info

The stocks in European waters are overfished (88 percent of the commercially used fish stock in EU waters is overfished) and the fleet capacity of the EU is far too high (they fish 2-3 times more than the dwindling fish stocks can sustain). Today, the EU imports more than 65% of their fish and 8% of its own catch comes from Fisheries Partnership Agreements.

For more information on our oceans campaign and the we work we do in West African waters, download our 'How Africa Feeds Europe Report'.