Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Unsustainably Exploiting the Oceans

"Chinese fleets are all over the world now, and without these subsidies, the industry just wouldn't be sustainable."
"For Senegal and other countries of West Africa, the impact has been devastating."
Li Shuo, global policy adviser, Greenpeace East Asia

"Foreigners complain about Africa migrants coming to their countries, but they have no problem coming to our waters and stealing all our fish."
Moustapha Balde, 22, Senegal

"We always thought that sea life was boundless. [Now], we are facing a catastrophe."
"I understand why [local fishermen in Joal, Senegal] they hate me [for his campaign targeting Chinese boats and Senegalese boats alike against overfishing]. They are just trying to survive from day to day."
Abdou Karmim Sall, 50, president, Joal fishermen's association

"Sometimes the Chinese pay bribes [to local African authorities] to get access [along the African seacoast, for fishing], and that money doesn't trickle down, so the population is hit by a double whammy."
Rashid Sumaila, director, Fisheries Economics Research Unit, University of British Columbia Fisheries Center
Chinese Fishing at Sea in Western Africa在海的中国钓鱼在西非
A Chinese fisherman and three local e local sailors clean recently caught shark. (Greenpeace/Liu Yuyang)

Senegal has close to a 500 kilometer coastline along the Atlantic, and for the country the ocean represents their economic lifeblood, with seafood their main export. Fishing-linked industries give employment to close to 20 percent of the Senegalese work force. Declining fish stocks and drought linked to climate change has led millions of rural Senegalese to migrate to the coast, placing a further burden on sea dependency.

In the small fishing village of Joal, the population has swelled to 55,000 souls and as a result 4,900 pirogues fish from Joal, a substantial increase from the few dozen that were part of the local scene when Abdou Karim Sall was still in his teens. More latterly at age 50, he became a local celebrity
when he personally detained captains of two Chinese fishing boats fishing close by his village illegally.

Large, foreign-owners trawlers capriciously trawl the seacoast; at last estimate, over 100 of the boats representing European, Asian and locally flagged vessels. Apart from those fishing vessels, there are other boats flying Senegalese flags despite their ownership by Chinese companies. Chinese boats are flagged as among the worst offenders, stealing 40,000 tons of fish yearly from Senegalese waters, representing about $28-million the nation might have profited by.

What has been happening in Senegal is repeated throughout West Africa where countries like Guinea-Bissau, and Sierra Leone have few boats to police their national waters. "We used to have big grouper and tuna, but now we are fighting over a few sardinella" buyer Sente Camara, 68, complained. "The future is dark", she added.

In the nation of 14-million, impoverished Senegal has seen its fishing stocks plummet, and local fishermen with their hand-hewn canoes have a difficult time competing with the megatrawlers whose nets scoop every living thing out of the seas. The fish are sent abroad, much of it becoming fishmeal for chickens and pigs in the United States and Europe.
West African small-scale Local Fishermen in Senegal西非地方渔夫
Local fishermen in Senegal cast their nets. Other than a motor and GPS, their boat lacks any modern equipment. (Greenpeace/Liu Yuyang)

Fewer returns from the sea translates to far less income for fishermen, itself ensuring high food prices for all Senegalese citizens traditionally dependent for protein on fish. China is the world's largest seafood exporter, its population accounting for over a third of all fish being consumed globally, with China's fishing industry giving employment to over 14-million people, another 30 million relying for their livelihood on the fish industry.

Indonesia has responded to the presence of Chinese trawlers caught poaching by impounding scores of them. A Chinese vessel was sunk by Argentina when it attempted to ram an Argentinian coast guard ship. Chinese fishermen and South Korean authorities have clashed with deadly results. Beijing, however, views its fishing vessels as a forerunner of its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea where in Hainan Province the government motivates boat owners to fish around the Spratly archipelago and the Paracel Islands claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam respectively.

Chinese fishing boats are not entirely on their own; they have naval power back-up, and Chinese naval frigates have driven off thousands of Filipino fishermen dependent on the rich fishing areas around the Spratly Islands.  China's distant-water fishing fleet has expanded to include close to 2,600 vesselsm most of them so large they scoop up as much fish in a week as Senegalese boats bring in throughout the space of a year.

The journal Frontiers in Marine Science estimates that China's fishing predation costs West African economies $2-billion yearly in lost income, while Chinese government subsidies valued at close to $22-billion-worth between 2011 and 2015, has created a dependency among Chinese boat owners.

West African small-scale Local Fishermen in Senegal西非地方渔夫
Local fishermen beat the sides of their boat and sing traditional songs as they pull their nets in. (Greenpeace/Liu Yuyang)

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