Documentary: How China Is Emptying Africa’s oceans

hinese fishing vessels are seen moored off the coast of Nouadhibou, Mauritania, April 14, 2018.
Chinese fishing vessels are seen moored off the coast of Nouadhibou, Mauritania, April 14, 2018.

Foreign trawlers, following the rules, could be a great source of income for poor countries. But what happens if they don’t follow the rules? How are they getting away with that? Is someone turning a blind eye. In this documentary it gets clear how China is emptying Africa’s oceans in no-time.

In Souther Oxford the latest technology is being used to monitor the world’s oceans. It show that West African countries are heavily targeted by foreign vessels.

Vessels from Russia and the European Union, but three quarters of the vessels are from China.

Illegal pair trawling in Sierra Leone

Satellite images taken off the coast of Sierra Leone show foreign vessels which are pair trawling.

With this method two vessels fish side by side, towing a giant fishing net and basically weep everything thats alive from the ocean.

This fishing method is illegal because of its highly destructive effectivity. Back in Freetown the BBC crew joins the coast guard in search of vessels that are pair trawling.

How China Is Emptying Africa's Oceans
Chinese Zombie Ships off the coast of West Africa, March-April 2006. These ships are engaged in IUU – illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing off the coast of Guinea, West Africa. The ships themselves have not been in port for perhaps ten years – they crew don’t see land for up to two years. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza, with Greenpeace, Environmental Justice Foundation and Guinean authorities participated in the arrest of one of these vessels – on board were boxes for a ship of another name, and with the words “product of Spain”. The crewmen, who are essentially indentured labourers live in appalling conditions on board. Some of the vessels no longer function, and are left at anchor offshore, with a skeleton crew on board. Later on the expedition, the Esperanza caught some of the working vessels transhipping boxes to a Korean ‘reefer’, which it then pursued to Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands. Activists blocked the ship’s cranes in for many days over Easter 2006, leading to the seizing of 11,000 boxes fishing stolen from the waters of West Africa and destined for the European market. The fish was returned to Guinea. Copyright 2006 Dave Walsh

This mini documentary shows exactly where the problem lies in fighting illegal fishing in West Africa.

The government of Sierra Leone decided to send ‘observers’ who travel with these vessels to document the government if there are any cases of illegal fishing.

In all cases these people are so heavily bribed by the owners of the ships, that none of them will ever report illegal fishing. This is the reason why Sierra Leone’s management system is failing completely.

Chinese vessels are wiping West Africa’s oceans. Already the consequenses are visible. All fish stocks are declining in an alarming rate.

The BBC investigates illegal and unsustainable fishing off the west coast of Africa to find out how one of the most fertile ecosystems on earth has been pushed to the brink. It is terrifying how China is emptying Africa’s oceans.

Correspondent: Paul Adams
Video Journalist: Charlotte Pamment

Also read: PDF REPORT China’s hidden Fleet in Africa

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