Fishing communities from West Africa and Southeast Asia joined forces to mark World Fisheries Day (21 November 2023), delivering letters to officials demanding protections for their communities’ traditional fishing waters - and for the right to stewardship of those coastal areas.
With the support of Greenpeace, representatives from the Indonesian island of Sangihe, Chana district in Thailand and several Senegalese fishing towns delivered letters to government officials in their respective countries and staged striking photo opportunities.
“To catch fish, now we need to go far out to sea because the nearby waters are already dominated by the illegal fishing gear. They are also the reason why the fish stock around here is depleting. The government barely does anything to regulate them,” said Desmon Sondakh, a fisherman from Bulo village in Sangihe, Indonesia. “If the sea ecosystem is healthy and we have the power to protect it from destructive business activities, we’re not only protecting the future of the island, but also ensuring a quality life for our future generations.”
The letters, delivered by community representatives, demanded coastal marine protected areas that use sustainable traditional fisheries management practices, and which are managed jointly by communities and the authorities. This, the letters explained, is crucial for food security. Community members also demanded that their governments sign and ratify the Ocean Treaty, in order to protect fish populations on the high seas.
“For years, we have been fighting a large industrial estate that is threatening the sea we rely on for our livelihoods,” said Khaireeyah Ramanyah, a youth activist from Chana district, Thailand. “We managed to postpone it, but we will continue fighting until we are sure our homes and jobs are safe. That’s why last year I took part in an activity in New York to call for an Ocean Treaty. I met people who had been fighting like me and realized I am not alone. Not only Chana’s sea but the whole ocean needs protection. One thing to do is for governments to ratify the Ocean Treaty, so we can have regulations that protect the ocean, protect food, and us coastal communities.”
In Senegal, a conference of fishermen, women fish processors, major political groups and some industrial fishing companies issued a memorandum to the Fisheries Ministry that outlined the sector's problems and proposed sustainable solutions. The memorandum was organised by Greenpeace Africa and will also be sent by local communities to their regional governors. The conference will also call on the candidates in the country’s upcoming presidential elections to sign a charter for sustainable fishing.
“We constantly monitor for trawlers stealing our fish. But we need the government to play their part too,” said Ndiaga Cisse, a fisherman from Mbour, Senegal, who took part in the day’s activities. “The fishermen in Thailand and Indonesia have similar problems. So we are all trying to take control of our waters. Here on the coast the government must support a marine reserve, and to protect the fish far out in the ocean they must support the Treaty.”
Notes to editors
Activists staged striking photo opportunities to highlight their grassroots campaigns against industrial overfishing and coastal industrialisation. Copies of the images and rights information are available here and on Greenpeace’s social media channels.
- In Kampung Bulo village in the Sangihe Islands, Indonesia, fishing community members and young people posed on the coastline with banners and boats.
- In the Thai district of Chana, fishermen posed with large fish caught in the region's waters.
- In Mbour, Senegal, women fish processors posed with traditional calabash bowls that were empty of fish, raised their fists in defiance and they will release a social media reel demanding government action.
In Thailand’s Chana district, trawlers are overfishing local waters, and a proposed industrial zone would pollute the local fishing community’s land and waters. Read more here.
In Sangihe Island, Indonesia, the use of industrial fishing (fish aggregating devices) threatens local fish stocks. Meanwhile, a proposed gold mine would also pollute the local fishing community’s land and waters. The community recently won a case against the mining project in Indonesia’s supreme court, but they expect further attempts to construct the mine. Read more here.
And on the coast of Senegal, fishmeal factories are encouraging massive overfishing by trawlers. Read more here.