Last week, the Senegalese government cancelled all fishing permits for foreign “pelagic trawlers,” large fishing vessels that drag nets below the surface of the ocean.
This should remind leaders that with political will and courage, they can change things and shape the future of their people for the better. Our work to make this decision permanent in Senegal continues, as does our work to make sure that the European CFP (Common Fisheries Policy) reform process works for all Europeans, not just powerful fishing interests.
The timely decision by our government here is a huge step forward in the struggle to end overfishing by foreign ships in Senegal, and throughout the West African region, where foreign trawlers, especially from Europe, plunder our waters of fish having already exhausted their own.
For nearly a year now, Greenpeace has been leading an intense campaign to convince the Senegalese government cancel the fishing permits. Not only do these permits lack a strong legal basis, they also pose a serious threat to the livelihood of millions of Senegalese who rely on fish for jobs and food.
Greenpeace undertook numerous initiatives including a project entitled “My voice, my future”, which included a march alongside small-scale fishing communities, an online petition, political lobbying, and of course, sending our ship Arctic Sunrise to take action and document the oceans crisis unfolding in Senegalese waters.
Greenpeace has been working around the world to stop the plunder of African’s waters by foreign vessels. In Europe, numerous Greenpeace offices are demanding that the current CFP reform process include measures to keep EU vessels from plundering foreign waters and mechanisms to rescue Europe’s oceans.
After meeting with Greenpeace representatives as a candidate, Macky Sall, now Senegal’s president, publicly declared that he would put an end to the pillaging of Senegalese waters by foreign fishing boats. He has now fulfilled the process, a move that gives us hope that a new generation of politicians putting the interests of all of us above their own may be upon us here in Senegal.
We hope that this inspires politicians to not stand by as Africa’s valuable fish are taken from us. West African waters remain a favourite target for foreign fishing boats, which often use destructive fishing gear that take more than just fish, often with the complicity of other leaders in the region.
We will keep you posted on how our work to reform fisheries laws – for the benefit of all of us, not just large-scale fishing industries - in Europe and here in Africa continues
Raoul Monsembula is a Greenpeace Africa oceans campaigner based in Dakar, Senegal.