Greenpeace stops super trawler emptying African waters as EU ministers prepare to meet in Brussels

Press release - March 15, 2012
Nouadhibou - Brussels, 15 March 2012 – Greenpeace today took action at sea in West Africa, as European ministers prepare to meet Monday and Tuesday next week to discuss the reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) (1) and its impact on fishing in foreign waters. Greenpeace activists have connected a huge buoy onto the nets of the floating fish factory Dutch PFA vessel Dirk Diederik to prevent it from fishing. Currently more than ten European pelagic freezer trawlers are in the area of Nouadhibou (Mauritania). Each of these vessels is able to process and freeze about 250,000 kilo of fish per day.

“Since so far, we’ve seen no action by European ministers against overcapacity (2), Greenpeace has no other choice than to confront the enormous European trawlers that scoop up the remaining fish and leave the local fishermen empty handed,” said Iris Menn, ocean campaigner onboard the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise.

In next weeks meeting ministers debate the so so-called ‘external dimension’ of the European fishing fleet, which catches about 1.2 million tonnes of fish per year outside European waters. This is almost one quarter of its total catch. Increasingly EU fishing vessels compete with local fishermen of foreign coastal states in developing countries.

“The ministers will undoubtly agree that fishermen in foreign coastal nations should have priority access to their own fishing grounds, said Menn. “However when ministers are not seriously tackling overcapacity of their own fleet the plundering by European vessels in foreign waters will continue”, added Menn.

During the expedition in West Africa for the last five weeks the Arctic Sunrise has been documenting and exposing the overfishing of foreign fleets. On Tuesday this week, in just 12 hours, the crew of the Arctic Sunrise came across no fewer than seven EU floating fish factory trawlers plundering the ocean’s resources. The reform of the EU CFP is a chance for an urgently needed change in European fisheries policy.

When the European authorities are called upon to find solutions to overfishing of their industrial fleet, the West African too, must see the reality in face. They must choose between short-term gains, reserved to a few, and the interests of all their fellow citizens, in the long run.

Greenpeace is campaigning in West Africa to end overfishing by foreign fleets to enable local people to enjoy the fruits of sustainable fisheries and fair, which puts center stage the needs and interests of domestic actors.

Notes to the Editor:

(1)   The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is a set of rules that governs fishing fleets from all EU countries regardless of where they fish. It determines who can fish, what they can fish, where and for how long they fish. It should ensure sustainable and fair fishing, but has failed to so. A full review of the CFP, which takes place every ten years, is currently under way and provides a unique chance to end overfishing by EU vessels.

(2)   Fishing capacity essentially describes the ability of a vessel or fleet of vessels to catch fish. It is often measured in terms of the size and engine power of fishing vessels, but other factors affect the fishing capacity too, such as the equipment uses to find and catch fish, the freezing capacity of the vessel and even the experience of the captain and crew.

On board the Arctic Sunrise:

Iris Menn (German) Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, +31 20 712 2616 or +31 20 712 2617, Email:

Pavel Klinckhamers (Dutch) Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, +31 20 712 2616 or +31 20 712 2617, Email:  

Ahmed Diame, Greenpeace communications, +31 20 712 2616 or +31 20 712 2617, Email: