Activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise today painted four floating fish factory trawlers with “PLUNDER!” The vessels Margiris, Franziska, Dirk Diederik and Willem van der Zwan are Lithuanian, Peruvian and Dutch flagged and belong all to the Dutch Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association (PFA).
These vessels are an example of the overcapacity (1) of Europe’s fishing fleet, which can and should be reduced through the current reform process of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).(2) An improved CFP is Europe’s best chance to rescue our oceans, maintain European fishing industries and guarantee Africa’s food security and economic prosperity through local fishing. For these European vessels to remain economically viable, they need to chase fish in distant waters as far as the Pacific Ocean or West Africa, since stocks in Europe are insufficient.
“The European Union is shifting the insatiable hunger of their obese fishing fleets to distant African waters”, said Pavel Klinckhamers on board the Arctic Sunrise. “The reduction of the EU fishing fleet capacity is necessary if the current reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is to actually deliver meaningful change for our oceans and for the fishing industries fishing away African futures.” said Klinckhamers.
Despite claiming to fish responsibly, the PFA admits publically that the pelagic fisheries are not well managed by the Mauritanian government (3) Additionally international agreements as the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Fisheries Partnership Agreements of the EU allow fisheries of foreign fleets only on a surplus of stocks, but scientific studies indicate that fish stocks in West Africa are decreasing – including those being fished by PFA vessels.(4)
“If the EU and the PFA live up to their commitments, a reduction of their fishing capacity is the only responsible course to take”, said Klinckhamers. “The impact of Europe’s fleet on our oceans and the billions of people dependent on them for food and jobs are enormous. As long as European ministers refuse to take responsibility for the future of our oceans, Greenpeace will take action against destructive fishing operations,” added Klinckhamers.
During their expedition in West Africa for the last five weeks, the Arctic Sunrise has been documenting and exposing the overfishing of foreign fleets in these waters. Greenpeace is campaigning for an end to overfishing globally and a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans, both essential for restoring our once rich oceans. The reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy is a chance for an urgently needed change in European fisheries policy.