What We Do Defending Our Oceans
Over-fishing is emptying the seas faster than nature can replenish it, threatening the food security of hundreds of millions of people.
Destructive fishing, climate change and polluting industries are threatening the survival of many fish species, whale and dolphin populations and whole marine ecosystems.
Greenpeace activists paint 'Stolen Fish' on the hull of the illegal cargo vessel Binar 4 before occupying it to prevent the unloading of fish stolen from Guinean waters.
Exploitation off West Africa's coasts
The waters off West-Africa are amongst the most fertile in the world. Due to the upwelling phenomenon, observed only in a few areas worldwide, deep nutrient rich water comes to the surface providing the fundament for a complex and plentiful food web, which is able to supply food and income for the sub-Saharan countries bordering these waters. Although the resources appear to be inexhaustible, the contrary can be observed: fish stocks are dwindling, and fishermen are struggling to make a living.
Guinean fishery inspector on-board the Chinese pirate vessel Lian Run 14, arrested for fishing illegally inside the Guinean Exclusive Economy Zone EEZ.
Anxious to earn hard currency to service their national debt, the governments of African coastal nations have been selling the right to fish in their waters to hi-tech, foreign industrial fleets. The hope is that increased fish production will help local economies by providing more jobs, more money and more food.
In reality, this super-efficient factory fishing does nothing of the kind. Instead, in the almost total absence of monitoring, control, surveillance and management plans, too many fish are taken from African waters.
The foreign fishing fleets take their catch to ports far from Africa, making millions of dollars, while Africa's coastal communities grow poorer.
In just one day in 2001, a Greenpeace ship observed that over one third of the vessels fishing off the coast of Guinea were there illegally, fishing well inside the Guinean exclusive economic zone. In 2006 during a follow-up survey, the number of ships fishing illegally had risen to half.
Greenpeace is campaigning to stop the theft of fish from African seas and to develop viable alternatives to overfishing. Alternatives that will help develop a sustainable locally operated and financed fishing industry. One that will protect livelihoods, alleviate poverty, preserve the marine environment and ensure the supply of vital food to local people for generations to come. This would help restore the region's highly degraded marine environment without negatively impacting Africans' food security.
As the captain of a local fishing boat sums it up, "If we don't have a sustainable policy for this sector, we will have no fishing whatsoever... We urgently need to carry out a sustainable policy, especially for small-scale fishery. The whole region depends on small-scale fishery."
Greenpeace is calling for:
- Africa's waters managed regionally by a well functioning effective regional fisheries management organisation;
- Elimination of destructive fishing practices to ensure sustainable levels of marine life;
- A reduction in the size and numbers of fleets fishing in African waters, with increased monitoring and control of those that remain;
- A network of well enforced ocean sanctuaries across the region;
- Sustainable fishing and fish processing operations managed and financed by Africans, providing livelihoods, food security and enabling poverty alleviation in the region;
- Africa's waters managed by well funded, functioning regional oceans management organisations.