The dawn of a new era. NOT!
The Artic Dawn is a crab fishing vessel that was made famous in the TV ‘Deadliest Catch series in approximately 2010. It came to fthe fore again in the same year, when in caught fire in the lake Washington ship Canal. However, it was not a vessel of infamy like a boat of a similar name, the Atlantic Dawn and pictured above. The full story of this boat can be found at ECOLOGIST- Atlantic Dawn.
In a nutshell, however, The Atlantic Dawn, the world’s biggest fishing vessel, was launched in Dublin in August 2000. It cost its skipper-owner, Irish businessman Kevin McHugh, £50m. Built in Norway, the ship also cost Norwegian taxpayers £4m in government shipyard subsidies. At that time, even though Ireland was already exceeding the EU’s mandated maximum allowable domestic fleet size by 30 per cent, the Irish government gave the Atlantic Dawn a temporary fishing license to fish in international waters. Then in October 2001 the European Commission launched two court actions against Ireland for exceeding its allowable fishing-fleet size, due to the huge capacity that the ship could take. Subsequently, as the article explains, there appeared to be some sheningans whereby the ship got a license to fish nine months of the year in Mauritanian, waters. This huge ship could earn USD 2million in one outing, where as artisanal fishermen were earning USD 500-1000 a year.
I was reminded of this case lately upon reading an article in the ‘Maritime Executive’, entitled ‘Trawlers with History of Illegal Fishing Threaten Senegalese Fisheries’. My first thought, here we go again. The article explians how fifty-three additional industrial fishing vessels, like the Antlantic Dawn, have requested licenses for the west coast African waters that are already at over-capacity and where fish populations are already under threat. Local fishing is of course artisinal and the associations managing these have called for their relevant Government ministry to decline the licenses, saying the decision could have devastating and potentially irreversible impacts on Senegalese fisheries.
Key local fish populations such as small pelagic species are already over-fished, and fishing in the region should be reduced by at least 50 percent to prevent collapse scientists have warned. Small pelagic fish are the main catch for local boats which provide staple food across West Africa.
In Senegal, 75 percent of animal protein comes from fish. If these small pellagic stocks collapse, the food security of a whole region would be in jeopardy. It’s the same in Ghana, also on the west coast, where these small fish are targeted. Most of this ‘international fishing is done by illegally by trawlers. “Saiko” is a destructive form of illegal fishing where foreign trawlers target theese small pelagics, transfer them at sea to specially adapted boats, and sell this stolen fish back to local communities at a profit.
One does not need to comment on how rediculous that situation is. Further, a number of these vessels that have applied for licenses have already been identified as operating illegally in the past. This is a comon phenomna where through a web of corporate ownership, foreign boats get licenses to fish in local waters. In Ghana for instance, some trawlers are Ghanaian on paper, but at least 90 percent of the trawl fleet is actually linked to Chinese ownership, despite a ban on foreign ownership in the trawl sector. The situation is much the same in Senegal.
So we here great stories of how the industry is changing, how people are being more aware and then we get knocked back by a new story, with the same theme of ten years previous. Its so sad. What to do.