The Urgent Need for Sustainable Fisheries in Africa

We urge West African governments to play their part

Feature story - June 29, 2011
Today we highlighted the plunder of West Africa's once rich fishing grounds through presentations under the theme: Towards sustainable fisheries: Greenpeace and West African fishermen map out the future.

African Voices Tour UK Billingsgate

Addou Karim Sall, one of the fishermen on the 'African Voices Tour' visits a fish market in the UK. Much of the fish sold in the EU now comes from West African waters where European trawlers are having a devastating impact on fish stocks. © Francisco Rivotti / Greenpeace

The presentations took place at the Douta Seck Cultural Center, and showcased the global overfishing crisis and its impact in the West African context.

One of the major perpetrators in the fishing crisis is the European Union’s fishing fleet. Each year, the leviathan trawlers, and massive factory ships along the West African waters, empty the ocean of every living thing. As European waters have gradually been emptied in this same fashion, the trawlers have simply relocated in a bid to fill their holds and put fish on the tables of European restaurants.
[For more on this, see our report: How Africa Feeds Europe]

To tackle the issue, Greenpeace offices in Europe and in Africa joined forces in a project called the “African Voices Tour”. The tour took place leading up to the revision of the Common Fishery Policy (CFP) by the European Union in 2013.

Together with seven fishermen from Cape Verde, Senegal and Mauritania, Greenpeace met with Ministers, parliamentarians, civil society, media and the fishing industry, in eight countries across europe: the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Austria, Spain and the UK. The ‘voices’ described the effects that overfishing by foreign fleets was having on their way of life.

According to Raoul Monsembula, Greenpeace Africa Oceans Campaigner, "The European Union needs to secure a fairer and more sustainable fisheries partnership agreement. They can’t just shift the problem to a different part of the world -- particularly the coastal regions of Africa -- where most of our animal protein comes from the sea."

Accrding to the latest Word Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, 53 percent of the world fish stocks are fully exploited, 32 percent are overexploited or depleted, and only 15 percent are moderately used or underexploited.

In addition to this, modern fishing practices remain incredibly wasteful. Every year, fishing nets kill up to 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises globally. Getting tangled up in the nets of trawlers is the greatest threat to the survival of many species. To top it off, some fishing practices are incredibly destructive to ocean habitats. Bottom trawling, for example, easily destroys entire ancient deep-sea coral forests and other delicate ecosystems.

Oumy Sene Diouf, Greenpeace Africa’s Oceans Campaigner: "The situation is alarming and African Governments must immediately secure sustainable fisheries. They need to take the responsibility of enabling sustainable incomes and livelihoods for their citizens. The governments also need to tackle overcapacity, the destruction of fisheries, ecosystem preservation, as well as control and surveillance."