Dead End

Foreign vessels sucking the life from Africa’s fisheries

Feature story - April 10, 2012
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.

In the video below, activists attach a massive 10 by 30 meter banner to the underside of a helicopter which then flies the sign over a gigantic super trawler, the Willem van der Zwan.

The sign reads “Dead End”, refferring to the devastating effect that foreign fishing vessels like the Willem van der Zwan are having on fisheries in West Africa. Empty seas would literally be a dead end for the millions of local people who depend on West African seas for their livlihoods. 


Earlier in March, European ministers met in Brussels to address the impact of industrial trawlers like the Willem van der Zwan in foreign waters, but they failed to recognize that the root of the problem is the fleet’s excessive size and capacity to catch large quantities of fish that cannot naturally be replenished.

“Ministers meeting in Brussels in March once again dodged the problem of fleet capacity. Unless this issue is tackled head on, European trawlers will be allowed to suck the life out of every corner of the ocean, affecting the livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries.” said Pavel Klinckhamers, oceans campaigner onboard the Arctic Sunrise.

“Super-sized European trawlers like the Willem van der Zwan will continue to plunder the world’s oceans and European governments have so far been blind to the critical imbalance between the bloated size of the fleet and dwindling stocks” added Klinckhamers.

The EU fishing fleet catches about 1.2 million tonnes of fish per year outside European waters – almost one quarter of its total catch. There are about 300 vessels from 14 EU countries with fishing interests in foreign countries. Increasingly, EU fishing vessels compete with local fishermen of foreign coastal states in developing countries.

While European ministers fail to address the problem of overcapacity, newly elected Senegalese president Macky Sall used his first official message to the nation to address the poor state of the Senegalese fishing sector and the urgency to act. One of the main concerns he mentioned, was the authorization of fishing licenses to foreign vessels.

Although the EU terminated the fishing agreement with Senegal in 2006, Greenpeace has been able to spot several European vessels fishing in Senegalese waters operating under dodgy arrangements.