Catch on Senegalese Bottom Trawler
Catch on Senegalese Bottom Trawler (All rights reserved. Credit: © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace)

The disastrous effects of overfishing by European fleets aren’t confined to European waters: destructive EU vessels are now exploiting the waters of the world’s poorest nations - threatening ecosystems, depriving local fishermen their livelihoods and the food security of their communities. So Greenpeace has brought them and their stories to Europe.

What’s happening in Africa?

Local artisan fishermen in West Africa now find themselves competing against the largest of European trawlers. In one day, these massive vessels can capture the same amount of fish as thirty or forty traditional pirogue boats would catch in one year. These foreign fishing fleets then take their giant catch to ports far from Africa, making millions of dollars, while Africa's coastal communities struggle and grow poorer.

Fish stocks in West Africa are declining drastically. And local fishermen are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain their livelihoods or feed their families. The best fish ends up on European plates, while the rest is turned into animal feed or discarded as bycatch. One large trawler can carry 15 million meals’ worth of frozen fish to Europe while many Africans go hungry, unable to access the fish from their own waters. 

Introducing: African Voices

This is a story that desperately needs to be heard. Which is why we've organized the African Voices tour. By bringing fishermen from Cape Verde, Senegal and Mauritania to Europe, the tour allows them to share their experiences and highlight how industrial European vessels operating in their waters - under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) - are having such a drastic impact on their lives and communities.

And Europeans are paying...

Shockingly, EU taxpayers are funding this injustice in West Africa. In total, EU taxpayers contribute €158 million a year directly to other countries to secure access to their waters and fisheries resources. The fishing sector only pays €33 million in access license fees. In other words, EU taxpayers pay more than half a million euros per vessel per year to fish in the waters of other countries.

Why now?

Our timing is key: the African Voices tour takes place while major reform of the CFP is underway within the EU.

Already, six representatives from West African fishing communities (plus Oumy Sene, and Prudence Wanko from Greenpeace Africa) travelled to Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, France, and Austria to meet policy makers, NGOs, industry members, local fishermen and retailers.

The story of West African fisherfolk inspired much media interest, with interviews on national media, radio and more. Our representatives also gained positive political support from their meetings, including from fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki at the European Commission.

Next stop: UK

On 15 May, a delegation of fishermen from Mauritiana, Senegal and Cape Verde, plus Raoul Monsembula from our Africa office, will arrive in London to share the story with the UK – media, industry and policy makers. The fishermen will act as the voice of their people, pushing for real change in European fishing laws - and we want the UK decision makers to listen.

As well as featuring as part of Project Ocean – a celebration of the sea at London landmark Selfridges - African Voices will head to London’s Billingsgate market, to talk to fishmongers and buyers, about what is happening in West Africa and how our industry is contributing.

We also hope to introduce them to Britain's key political and industry decision makers, to highlight how the CFP should change to stop the destruction of their communities.

African Voices will then come to a close in Newlyn, Cornwall – where we’ll introduce our visitors to local fellow fishermen via the South West Handline Fishermen Association, to share experiences, skills and build bonds with the UK’s own small scale, sustainable fishing industry.

We’ll be updating this blog to let you know how the fishermen are getting on, share their stories and images from the tour – as well as how you can support them in their pursuit of a reformed CFP: where West African fisheries, communities and livelihoods can look forward to a fair and sustainable future.

Read more on sustainable fishing and oceans here!