Empty Nets, Empty Future

Feature story - September 28, 2011
Our new report shows how overfishing and climate change are taking their toll on West African seas.

Catch on Senegalese Bottom Trawler

Catch on deck of the Senegalese bottom trawler Nikolaos K, fishing in Gambian waters while pending a Senegalese license. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

Protect Africa's Fisheries

Download Empty Nets, Empty FutureGreenpeace has long been investigating overfishing in West African waters and now our new report, ‘Empty Nets, Empty Future’ shows, in a stark light, how the local fishing industry in West Africa is under threat.

The report focuses on how millions of Senegalese people depend on the fish caught off shore for their basic protein needs, but because the West Africans’ waters are becoming increasingly overfished by European trawlers, many unique species are now threatened with extinction. With this comes a threat to the whole West African way of life.


These coastal fisheries have become a destination of choice for European and Asian fleets. Since their own fisheries have become too overfished (88% of the commercially used fish stock in EU waters is overfished), they have simply headed to Africa, where they fail to put any protective measures in place to save the diminishing fish stock.

Climate Change

The effect of climate change on the oceans is another important topic that the report broaches. Increased water temperatures and changing weather patterns, among other factors, reduce the ocean’s ability to sustain life.

‘Empty Nets, Empty Future’ says that climate change could spell the end of the export fisheries industry in West Africa. This would destroy local economies, jobs and food availability. Many countries would not be able to adapt to this blow.

The Way Forward

But the report is careful to highlight solutions to this problem. It looks to the future, towards responsible fisheries management and a way to keep the plunder of the West African oceans in check.

Oumy Sene Diouf, Greenpeace Africa’s Oceans Campaigner says, "African governments need to take the responsibility of enabling sustainable incomes and livelihoods for their citizens. The governments also need to tackle overcapacity, the destruction of fisheries, ecosystem preservation, as well as control and surveillance."

Greenpeace is demanding fewer foreign trawlers and factory ships at sea, sustainable fishing practices and the establishment of a network of marine reserves to let fish stocks recover and protect the ecosystem. Current fisheries agreements should be scrapped and replaced with sustainable ones that benefit West African countries first and foremost.

Add your voice to our call for to stop the plunder of African oceans.