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 Noa is part of team who monitors and patrols them. He’s being interviewed just across the room from me, and is talking about his children:
“I tell them my job is to protect the fish for them. I don’t want them to read in books one day that Mozambique once had lots of prawns and tuna, but now there are none. I’m protecting the seas from illegal fishermen who are stealing our fish.”
He stops talking after that and looks up at the ceiling, perhaps thinking about his children and what the future will hold.
Protecting the fisheries is a tough job given the size of Mozambique’s waters, the limited resources his department has, and the enormous amount of time that ocean surveillance takes. Sadly it means that Noa’s team is unable to monitor the full extent of Mozambique’s fisheries, and the outer reaches have become a hot spot for illegal and unregulated fishing.
There are cases where vessels from countries like Spain, Japan, and Taiwan have illegally entered Mozambiquan territory where they haul massive quantities of Yellowfin Tuna and other species of fish. Noa says sharks have also become a popular catch in recent years, driven by high prices for shark fins in Asian markets.
Greenpeace is currently working with Noa and the Mozambiquan government to help change the situation by patrolling the fisheries with him, inspecting vessels, and arresting those acting illegally. In the coming weeks Noa and two of his colleagues will be sailing with us on board the Rainbow Warrior, showing us where to scout for illegal operations in areas he can’t normally monitor.
Although Greenpeace has a long history of working to end overfishing globally, this is the first time we’ve come to the Indian Ocean. We’re here now to document and expose overfishing and illegal fishing in the region, and to support coastal countries with the enforcement of their fishing zones. But at the same time it’s about listening to local people and learning from their experiences. Noa’s time on board the Rainbow Warrior is a valuable opportunity for that, a chance to empower people to defend their oceans and have more control over their resources.
Michael Baillie works in Greenpeace Africa's communications department, based in Johannesburg, South Africa