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.

Solutions

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.

The latest updates

 

Inspecting Foreign Vessels in Mozambique Waters

Blog entry by Mike Baillie | September 20, 2012

The crew had been aboard the Japanese longliner for seven months. Mostly from Indonesia, the men didn’t speak much English, but a few did recognize the name ‘Greenpeace’. It was clear the ship had seen its fair share of fishing, but...

Protecting Noa’s Ark

Blog entry by Mike Baillie | September 20, 2012

Noa is a fisheries inspector from Mozambique, an easy-going man with soft features who really lights up if you talk to him about his work. He like’s to wear stripes. Mozambique’s ocean fisheries cover an area of almost 600,000 km2 and...

Senegal's Catch Of A Lifetime

Image gallery | August 23, 2012

Senegal's Catch of a Lifetime

Feature story | August 23, 2012 at 11:46

A heart-warming David and Goliath-type story from our oceans campaign in West Africa (with a happy ending).

Looking Beyond the Dolphins

Blog entry by Mike Baillie | August 22, 2012

I was walking along the side of the ship, looking out across the sea onto the shore. There was quite a strong wind blowing, enough to fill three of our sails, but the waves hadn’t picked up yet. I leaned over the side and said how much...

Senegalese Fishermen Smile Again

Blog entry by Bakary Coulibaly | August 20, 2012

The cancellation, in May, of 29 fishing authorizations granted to foreign vessels by the Senegalese government is beginning to have beneficial effects for Senegalese people already. Less than two months after the departure of the...

Rainbow Warrior comes to Cape Town

Image gallery | August 10, 2012

Victory in Senegal!

Blog entry by Ahmed Diame | May 7, 2012

After the removal of AFP (Association of Pelagic Freezer Ships) boats from Mauritanian waters about a week ago, it was the Senegalese government’s turn to cancel all fishing authorizations allocated to pelagic trawlers operating in its...

Senegal cancels fishing licenses for 29 foreign trawlers: our congratulations to the...

Feature story | May 4, 2012 at 12:50

An open letter of congratulations to the Senegalese Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, from Greenpeace Africa.

Foreign vessels sucking the life from Africa’s fisheries

Feature story | April 10, 2012 at 11:50

As West African leaders becoming increasingly outspoken about overfishing, we are continuing our protest against European factory trawlers that are emptying seas and putting the future of local coastal communities at risk.

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