Which state has the best fisheries
You can see them in good weather, says Ebrima Tabang. He stands on the beach of Gunjur, a small village on the coast of the also quite small state of Gambia. The Gambia has 80 kilometers of coast to offer, they are popular with British package tourists who roast their bodies dark red there. But above all with fishermen from all over the world who come with their huge fishing fleets into the waters off the Gambia, which are among the richest in the world. "You can see the ships on the horizon, they come from China, Japan and Europe," says Ebrima Tabang from the state fisheries authority, which is actually responsible for protecting the coast from illegal fishing trawlers. The only question is how to do it. Sometimes there is a boat that he and his people can take out. Sometimes not.
"And if one of us drives out, the captains will give them $ 100, if they stop at all. That's a third of an annual salary. What would you do?"
In the past, says Tabang, the Gambian fishermen only had to go out briefly once with their motorless pirogues, then they would have had the catch of the day. Today, many of them don't even go out because they can't win the battle against the huge fish factories at sea that catch up to 30 tons a day. Many pirogues lie upside down on the beach, and below them are a few fishermen who smoke. They painted Germany flags on their boats - the big dream. In no other African country have as many people fled to Europe as from Gambia.
For some years now, politicians in Europe have been thinking more and more about how to prevent young people from fleeing. And at the same time help to increase the causes of flight. The non-governmental organization Oceana, which is committed to protecting the oceans, has now calculated that EU fishing trawlers fished around 32,000 hours illegally from the Gambia between 2012 and 2015. The data comes from a monitoring system that records those ships that have switched on their automatic detection system. The number of unreported black fishing boats is likely to be much higher, they believe at Oceana. Even so, the data showed in a terrifying way how much boats from constitutional states were involved in illegal practices, says Maria Jose Cornax of Oceana.
90 percent of Europe's waters are overfished
The boats come from Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece, and they apparently had the permission of their respective governments - although the EU had reminded its member countries several times in recent years that fishing in Gambia and Equatorial Guinea is not allowed while it is there is no new agreement on fishing for both states. Such so-called "partnership agreements" have been concluded since the EU drastically changed its fisheries policy in 2014. Inside and out too.
90 percent of European waters are overfished, to which the European fishing groups reacted by expanding their fishing grounds. The ships got bigger, the corporations were negotiating fishing licenses with West African states, which the EU subsidized with around 140 million euros, according to Greenpeace. It did not take long before the West African waters were overfished, the stocks of the grouper, which is important there, declined by 80 percent. Thousands of fishermen in West Africa became unemployed, and many made their way to Europe.
The new fisheries agreement, however, should be a "give and take". Europeans get access rights, in return they pay to build a sustainable fishing industry and monitor fishing grounds. Critics say the benefits are fairly one-sided. Senegal, for example, receives around one million euros a year for the license to Europeans. The agreements are also partially opaque, there is too little information about which fish are caught and how many. The EU Commission also seems to be on hand very quickly when it comes to reprimanding other countries - but apparently different rules apply to its own members. In May, the Commissioner responsible, Karmenu Vella, warned the Liberian government that it must do more to combat illegal fishing. He did not mention the trawlers that were illegally sailing off the Gambia from the member countries.
A third of the fish imported into Europe could be caught illegally
The EU has long been the largest export market for fishery products. According to estimates, up to a third could come from illegal catches, which in turn are mainly made off the coast of West Africa. When Guinea-Bissau banned trawlers from entering its waters, the big fishing companies simply began launching an armada of small boats under local flags, which then carried their catch to the mother ships. The state was powerless.
A new state is emerging in The Gambia, at least a new policy. At the beginning of this year, the people chased away the old dictator, who for decades put many millions into his own pocket from the granting of fishing rights. The new government, on the other hand, wants to secure the dwindling resources for its own people.
The country wants to commission companies from the USA, South Africa and Holland to protect their own coast from illegal fishermen, with boats and helicopters. Ebrima Tabang, the government's fisheries officer, may have to find a new job. But maybe he's not so sad about it.
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