Greenpeace activists intercept a 96-meter tanker in the English Channel carrying oilfish oil from West Africa to Europe, to highlight the threat the industry poses to food security and livelihoods in the region.
Trade figures analyzed by Greenpeace Africa show that exports of fishmeal and fish oil from Mauritania alone increased by an 'alarmingly' 16% in 2020. Activists and locals say industry is pushing up prices and depleting fish stocks consumed by local people in poor communities in Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia.
"It 'sa big business taking life out of our oceans and depriving us and our communities of fishermen for their livelihoods, ”said Dr Aliou Ba, responsible for the ocean campaign.years for Greenpeace Africa . "This trade in fishmeal and fish oil is not sustainable. The fish that go into fish oil and fishmeal could be used to feed the people of West Africa. "
The Key Sund, a Norwegian flag vessel capable of carrying 4,500 tonnes of fish oil, the equivalent of 90,000 tonnes of processed fish , left on September 27 from Nouadhibou, in Mauritania. It was believed that he was about to deliver part of his cargo to a fish oil company in France.
The EU is a leading market for West African fishmeal and fish oil. About 70% of Mauritania's fish oil exports went to the EU in 2019 and 76% in 2020,Greenpeace found.
The owner of the tanker, Sea T ank Chartering, said he followed international and local laws and carried out "ordinary business activities" likely to improve the livelihoods of the local population.
Each year, more than half a million tonnes of fish are taken from the coasts of the Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia and converted into fishmeal and fish oil, used primarily in agriculture and fish farming, according to a Changing Markets report , a Netherlands and Greenpeace Africa.
Hugo Matre, spokesperson for Sea Tank Chartering, said: “We appreciate the work being done by Greenpeace on behalf of local vulnerable people. But to our knowledge, trade has the capacity to reStrengthen local entities, with the perspective of improving the livelihoods of local populations. a UN working group which recommended a 50% reduction in fishing for overfished sardinella species in West Africa, a key species used for fish oil and fishmeal, Matre said, “It is a big concern but it is difficult for a single company to get involved in this kind of political issue.
In Senegal, the soaring prices of sardinella and bonga, two species used in the fish flour and oil industry , threatens the livelihoods of artisanal fishermen.
Species, especially sardinella, a staple food throughout West Africa, are overexploited, "constituting a serious threat to food security in the sub-region", agreement to a working group of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO called for an urgent 50% reduction in fishing effort for sardinella species
Female fish proc esseurs and artisanal fishermen in Senegal have the target have organized protests against their government issuing industrial fishing licenses to foreign vessels.
In The Gambia, artisanal fishermen have said they blame their government for encouraging overfishing and allowing the operation of fishmeal factories.
Sulayman Ndong, 34, an artisanal fisherman from Gunjur in The Gambia, said : "Fishmeal and plant oil have caused a lot of damage to our navies.We have more catches before the fishmeal factories arrived, but now our catches are running out.
"The government is not doing its job as it should. They should not allow an industry that encourages overfishing. "
Fatou Bojang, 42, a fish processor in Gunjur, said: " Before the Arrival of the fishmeal factory in Gunjur we used to have a lot of fish to smoke and sell all over the country, but now we are facing the competition from the factory Golden Lead.
"I feed my family and if such fishmeal factories continue to operate, my children who go to school could not. go because I can't afford the tuition and daily expenses. This will affect their future. "
West African production of fishmeal and hile of fish has more than increased tenfold over the past decade, from 13,000 tonnes in 2010 to over 170,000 tonnes in 2019, according to the Changing Markets and Greenpeace report.
Worldwide, 69% of fishmeal and 75% of fish oil is used for aquaculture feed to produce farmed fish. like salmon and trout.
Greenpeace Africa calls for a 50% reduction in industrial fishing in the region to allow stocks to rebuild. He wants to see stricter and well-enforced regulations in West Africa and the EU to prevent over-exploitation in the future and to prevent entry into the EU market of products from the EU. based on fish meal and fish oil from unsustainable sources.
Calls for a ban on the use of fish fit for human consumption for fishmeal and fish oil, and that local small-scale fishers and processors are given a status to protect their rights to their fisheries.