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

 

The Human Costs of Foreign Fishing

Feature story | March 19, 2012 at 9:43

The effects that foreign trawlers are having in African waters are not simply confined to our fisheries. They are having strong ripple effects in local communities as well.

Protesting The Plunder of Africa's Future

Image gallery | March 14, 2012

From the Front lines: Activists Expose Overfishing

Video | March 7, 2012 at 11:28

The video here is rough footage from a recent action on a Russian trawler that was found fishing illegally. Activists paint the words “plunder” on the side of the boat, and pull off a plastic cover being used to hide the ship’s name while it...

Greenpeace protests against EU subsidised plunder of West African Waters

Feature story | March 2, 2012 at 16:53

Today, activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise protested against European overfishing in Mauritanian waters. The activists attached symbolic giant Euro bank notes and a banner saying “Stop EU Subsidised Plunder” on the hull of the...

Stop Fishing Away Africa's Future

Blog entry by Raoul Monsembula, onboard the Arctic Sunrise | March 1, 2012

On the bridge of the Arctic Sunrise, it is not hard to see what the problem in West African waters is. On the radar, within a range of 20 nautical miles, I see the little blips of nine super trawlers. They are fishing the West...

Exposed: Illegal Fishing in West African Seas

Feature story | February 24, 2012 at 22:53

Today Greenpeace activists caught a Russian-flagged vessel fishing illegally in Senegalese waters, painting the hull of the trawler with the word “Pillage” (the French word for plunder).

“No” to the selling of Africa’s future

Blog entry by Prudence Wanko | February 23, 2012

As Senegalese presidential hopefuls battle it out ahead of the upcoming elections, Greenpeace and community fishermen are calling on them to make African fisheries – and the many livelihoods that depend on them – a priority. ...

Greenpeace and Senegalese fishermen unite to tackle overfishing

Feature story | February 16, 2012 at 9:00

One of our ships, the Arctic Sunrise, has just arrived in Dakar. It was welcomed by more than fifty local fishermen, eager to tackle the problem of overfishing in their waters.

EU Supertrawler Prevented From Plundering The Oceans

Image | February 1, 2012 at 14:26

Greenpeace activists prevent one of Europe's largest fishing vessels, the 'Maartje Theadora' from leaving port. The activists secure the 140 meters long vessel to its mooring site with a cable. A banner placed on the ship reads "EU Stop...

Too many boats catching too few fish

Blog entry by Farah Obaidullah | February 1, 2012

It is no secret that Europe’s seas, once teeming with life, are now unable to provide fish for all its citizens. EU governments and the fishing industry have known for decades that they catch more than their seas can provide, so much...

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