The local fishing community in Thiaroye, Dakar, is celebrating. Since the new Senegalese government took action to stop overfishing, fisheries in the region are slowly regenerating, and fishermen are returning home with healthier catches.
The West Coast of Africa is home to some of the world’s richest fisheries – a vital source of protein and employment for communities in Senegal, and other countries along the coast. Sadly, as European and Asian waters have been almost completely emptied of fish, the fleets responsible for that destruction moved down into African waters.
Hauling out massive quantities of fish on a daily basis – many times greater than what local fishermen would catch in a whole year – these foreign fleets began to severely cripple fish stocks. Senegalese fishermen were forced to spend longer out at sea for much smaller catches.
Our video tells the happy ending to this story: thanks to effective community mobilization in Senegal, and decisive action from a new Senegalese government, the situation is starting to turn around.
Stopping the plunder of our oceans is of course vital for the fish and other species that live in them. But it’s not just about fish – it has a lot to do with people as well. By ensuring that fish stocks are well managed and regularly given the chance to regenerate, we are safeguarding a valuable resource that provides jobs, feeds communities and keeps the ocean full of life.
Last year, as part of the African Voices Tour, three West African fishermen visited the UK to reveal the real impact that our hunger for fish is having in their countries. While their communities rely on the seas for vital protein, our industrial-sized European fishing fleets are pillaging their waters, leaving little fish to make a living from, let alone feed their families.
After meeting with Richard Benyon MP, the UK’s fisheries minister, and relaying to him the devastating consequences that overfishing is causing in West Africa, the MP was visibly moved by their stories. He has since referred to this meeting in several speeches and has publicly expressed his commitment to ensure that the laws that govern EU vessels in distant waters do not negatively impact on local people’s lives.
In the UK, we’ve been building alliances with small scale fishermen, too. Here, fishermen who use sustainable methods, which have minimal impact on fish stocks and the environment, are increasingly being shut out by the European laws that govern fishing, known as the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The CFP allocates the vast majority of fishing quota to large industrial fleets, enabling them to continue to overfish European waters, while small scale fishermen get just a tiny percentage of the cut.
Our campaign to Be a Fisherman’s Friend calls for radical reform to the CFP to change this reality. And this year we have a real chance to do that. British and other EU politicians will take a vote in November on whether or not to reform the CFP. This opportunity comes along just once a decade so we’ve been working hard with local fishermen and members of the public to try to show decision makers that the system needs to change.
It’s clear that the message is starting to get through to politicians both overseas and in the UK. The victory for Senegal’s fishing industry, for example, is a hugely important step. However, there’s still a long way to go.
Get involved - sign up to Be A Fisherman’s Friend and help us ensure a future for our seas.