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Humans · Nature

Catch them young!

May 08th, 2017
in:Humans, Nature
by:Kolawole Talabi
located in:Sierra Leone, Senegal
tags:Esperanza, fishing, Greenpeace, Hope in West Africa

In April, the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, concluded its surveillance mission in Sierra Leone to document threats from the reckless exploitation of African fishing grounds by foreign commercial entities.

In association with local authorities, the Greenpeace team put together a series of events as part of its ‘Hope in West Africa’ campaign to sensitize the people of Sierra Leone on the need to protect the sea and adjacent marine environments on which parts of their livelihood depend upon.

Days earlier, together with Sierra Leonean fishery officials, Greenpeace oceans campaigners boarded and inspected seven fishing vessels during a surveillance in which four kilograms of shark fins were found on a boat belonging to an Italian company. Though not yet illegal in Sierra Leone, it is against EU regulations to have shark fins on board a European fishing boat. Some Chinese and Korean vessels were also arrested for serious offences including using illegal fishing nets and not having required fishing documents.

“I’ve worked on fisheries in Europe and the Netherlands for a long time,” Pavel Klinckhamers, the project leader for the expedition explained in his tiny office aboard the ship. “I know that an honest fisherman is [yet] to be born because they’re all out at sea with limited [government] control and they all try to increase their catch as much as possible.”

Although Klinckhamers has reported the Italian fishing company on whose boat shark fins were found to the relevant EU authority in Brussels, he believes African governments should assume the task of policing their fishing grounds to prevent illegal fishing. He says Africa countries will earn more money if strict monitoring regimes are implemented in their various jurisdictions. Sadly, some of these governments are unwilling to take the responsibility of protecting their own backyards. Klinckhamers advises that African states need to cooperate to overcome the challenges of the limited capacity they may be facing individually.

Amidst the flurry of activities from traditional actors like government officials, civil society organizations, fishing companies and artisanal fishermen, children were allowed to voice their opinions on the issue of sustainable fisheries at the Open Day event. During a brief visit, the deputy minister for marine resources and fisheries, Charles Rogers, watched poignantly as two pupils from primary schools in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, gave short presentations on the significance of the seas to the development of their country.

“Working with children is a great way to reach adults, especially parents,” Ahmed Diame, another Greenpeace Africa oceans campaigner noted. “Children are the decision-makers of tomorrow. So it is important to educate them now so that they understand the issues of tomorrow. Thus, by involving children and especially students, we want to give them the opportunity to make their voices heard and to understand the issues related to the preservation of fisheries resources.”

And a critical aspect of understanding such issues is the ability to act with knowledge when opportunities come. For the Sierra Leonean youngsters who were invited to the Open Day aboard the Esperanza, such an opportunity could not have come sooner given the tremendous challenges they face as their country struggles to rebuild itself after many years of civil war and more recently, the outbreak of Ebola that devastated rural communities. Using speeches and paintings, the young environmental advocates took on illegal fishing with brilliant presentations.

First came the speeches, eloquently delivered by Mohamed Sherif Bah and Fatmata Bintu Kamara, students of the Eastern Muncipal Primary School in Freetown.

“We all can testify that our sea can be used for many purposes―fishing, swimming and sand mining to name a few,” Kamara began. “I therefore call on the government to support the Greenpeace organisation.”

Kamara received a rousing ovation. But she appeared calm even as the deputy minister cheered her on and the audience gave positive reactions to her wonderful oration.

Bah was a bit more reticent. “On behalf of our head teacher, staff and pupils…we present to you a package of decorative designs.”

Thereafter the visual arts presentations were made. They showcased colourful paintings that depicted the need for protecting marine animals from the dangers of corporate greed. Some of the paintings were gifted to the minister with hope that the voices of the children would serve as a constant reminder for him to ensure the sustainable use of the sea.

The Greenpeace expedition has also involved children in Beijing, China to participate in similar drawings as a means of showing solidarity with their African peers.

 “All these drawings will be presented during the last leg of the tour in Dakar, Senegal,” Diame added. “We also plan to make a collection of the best drawings in a format that we will choose to share with the rest of the world.”

Article written by:
Kolawole Talabi
Author
Current Map: Our coverage
The Greenpeace team put together a series of events as part of its ‘Hope in West Africa’ campaign to sensitize the people of Sierra Leone on the need to protect the sea.
“I know that an honest fisherman is to be born because they’re all out at sea with limited control and they all try to increase their catch as much as possible.”
“Children are the decision-makers of tomorrow. So it is important to educate them now so that they understand the issues of tomorrow."

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