China continues to violate sustainable fishing practices in Africa

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Mbour, Senegal, where fishing is traditionally a small-scale business. [Sebastián Losada_Flickr]

The new EU law on sustainable management of the EU external fishing fleet can contribute to forcing global parties to take more responsibility for sustainable fisheries, writes MEP Linnéa Engström, vice-chair of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee.

Linnéa Engström is a Swedish Green Party MEP and vice-Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries.

The bad news comes from Western Africa: the Chinese are building fish processing plants off the coast of Gambia and yet another plant will be constructed in Abéné in Senegal.

Why is this bad news? Green Wall Warriors, a local NGO, elaborates on the details in a recent report from Gambia: China has built fish processing plants in Gunjur and Kartong off the Gambian coast, the latter being an eco-village. The waste water solutions are all but sustainable. The pipelines constructed lead the waste water straight into the ocean. Since the construction of the latest pipeline, each day thousands of dead fish wash up on the beaches of Kartong and Gunjur as a result of contaminated waste water. People fear for their health and lives. The bad odour also destroys the Gambian tourism industry and affects the lives of local fishermen and their families, who have been engaging in small-scale fishing for centuries.

The Chinese plant is producing fish meal and fish oil to be exported to Asia. Overfishing in West Africa itself is already a huge problem. China’s overfishing practices are well known to the rest of the world, but so far its fleet has been unstoppable. West Africa, according to reports, provides the vast majority of the fish caught by the huge Chinese distant-water fleet. Most Chinese fishing vessels engage in fishing that violates international laws. In West Africa in particular, they catch species traditionally used to feed most of the population. Now, this fish ends up as fish meal transported back to China.

Here’s a piece of good news: the critical condition of our oceans and marine resources will soon be tackled at a high level UN conference in New York. We expect tangible results. So far more than 160 commitments have been registered, containing initiatives from all around the world. This is no doubt encouraging and I look forward to participating, not least because I will be able to present the latest legal EU achievements.

What is the good news from the EU? The law on sustainable management of the EU external fishing fleet.

The EU law on sustainable management of the EU external fishing fleet aims at making all parties take more responsibility.

Europe tries to rectify the precarious situation with a sustainable fishing authorisation system, a revised system of issuing and managing fishing authorisations, intended to improve monitoring and transparency of the EU external fishing fleet. In my capacity as rapporteur on the issue and vice-chair of the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries I regard it not only as a major achievement as such but first and foremost as a chance to set an example for the rest of the world.

The EU will lead by example and implement fisheries management systems that safeguard the sustainability of marine resources wherever the EU fleets operate. Meanwhile, it is of utmost importance that West African countries start cooperating among themselves, negotiating their deals in close cooperation and putting the local population and their interests first.

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