Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

PART TWO: The Pros and Cons of Fishing in Dependent Areas

A similar situation exists on the African continent. Rather than trying to limit the fishing industry, though, Senegal has actually increased it. Located on the West Coast of Africa between Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau, Senegal occupies a piece of land near the size of South Dakota and has a population of 12.8 million (“Background Note,” 2009). About a quarter of the population lives near the coast in Dakar, the capital city (“Dakar”). This country's geography is perfect for the fishing trade becauase trade winds flow from the Mauritanian desert and participate with the Atlantic Ocean's upwellings to bring nutrients—and consequently plankton—to the surface of the water. Since plankton resides at the bottom of the food chain, much of the of the 1,200 species of fish near Senegal's coast are more readily accessible than they would be if plankton did not rise to the surface in this way (Clover, 2006).

Senegal, despite this resource, is not an incredibly wealthy country. When the European Union proposed an agreement which granted it fishing rights for eighty-five vessels, Senegal agreed for the sum of $32 million dollars (Clover, 2006). This money is greatly needed for the construction of schools and hospitals. Approximately 600,000 people in Senegal are in the fishing trade, or near 21% of the population (Clover, 2006). Schools would allow future generations a greater chance at economical diversification. Thus, Senegal is benefiting from the fishing trade they have become largely dependent on. Local fishermen have jobs because they must represent a certain percentage of the EU ships' crew. In addition, big EU vessels are only allowed to fish up to a certain distance from the shore. Still, opinions are divided on whether or not the agreement is a prosperous or wise decision. A local elder plainly asserted that “Poverty came to Senegal with these fishing agreements” (Clover, 2006, p. 43). One local fisherman said that he and the men he fishes with can make $18 on a good day, but those days are few and far apart, unlike when his grandfather used to fish on a similar pirogue (Clover, 2006). The pirogues—the name for the local fishing boats—are much less industrialized than their EU counterparts by nature. Senegalese ancestors who fished and caught plenty did not have the radars, echo-sounders for locating fish, or electronic navigation systems such as GPS, and their nets were made of less sturdy materials that required more frequent and intensive repair (Koslow, 2007).

The patterns of fishing used by the EU boats may be similar to that of ancient pirogues, but they are exploitative because of their catching power. No catch limits exist to keep them in check, and a large by-catch percentage exists (Schmidt, 2008). By-catch is anything—plant or animal—trapped in nets or caught on hooks that does not belong to the species being fished. Understandably, such casualties adversely affect the local fishermen. Even if EU boats and locals are not fishing for the same types of fish, they may be catching them and throwing them back dead. Local fishermen are content to catch and eat the less marketable fish, but their marketable hauls are decreasing in amount as the EU vessels continue to exploit the waters—even fishing within the prohibited zones nearest the land (Clover, 2006). In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg began putting into place plans that would assist in the recovery of endangered species (Clover, 2006). However, the agreement with Senegal took place before this, which means that much needed regulations will take some time yet to implement. Meanwhile, the locals are still pleased that a certain tonnage of EU catch is required to be packed in Senegal, adding to the country's revenue (Clover, 2006). Shady aspects of the deal between the European Union and Senegal may correlate with the fact that “it is a common assumption in Senegal that there is corruption somewhere in the system” (Clover, 2006, p. 50). Once again, it appears that the major problems afflicting areas dependent on the fishing trade are those related to poor judgment or blatant indifference for good judgment.

Overfishing has become an issue because, like technological advancement, advances in equipment provided the opportunity for greater profit—a chance that is often too hard to moderate with personal accountability. These new-found opportunities created the “tragedy of the commons” (Koslow, 2007, p. 200). Basically, all water beyond 12-miles offshore was considered open to whoever wished to fish there prior to 1977. If a single venture wished to practice moderation in their catch it meant very little because their absence in that portion of the ocean would quickly be filled by another vessel. The fishing business is one of a highly competitive nature. Some scientists, along with ecologist Boris Worm, projected that all sea animals that we eat would invariably decline in population so that each would be caught at less than 10 percent of the maximum at least one time by the year 2048 (Brown, 2007). Others believe that these projections are unreasonable because they rely on “dubious metrics” (Brown, 2007, par. 2). Regardless of either of these opinions, the fact remains that the current state of the world's seas are pitiable.

A great cause for concern is the overfishing in the relation of the maturity of fishes and their status in the ecosystem pyramid (Driscoll & Warhol, 2007). When one species is over-fished it forces larger animals to eat smaller ones in greater numbers. For communities that rely on fishing, and especially if they rely heavily on a small number of species like local Senegalese fishermen, this could become a problem. An unbalanced ecosystem will understandably take longer to return to its healthy, natural order because different parts of it are stressed. On the upside, whenever weakening stocks are located it causes people to examine other available species. For example, Nicaragua gained water territory after settling a dispute with Honduras, and there are “57 species of exportable fish, a largely untapped resource” (Schmidt, 2008, par. 13). Consequently, the government hopes to interest divers in the fishing trade and has approved financing to help them make this transition (Schmidt, 2008). Continuing to substitute one type of fish for another, in conjunction with aquaculture, may be what is needed to help fishermen to better follow regulations without sacrificing their incomes.

In conclusion, though it is a complicated issue, the consumers are undoubtedly the driving force behind overfishing in vulnerable areas. Fishing is not a necessary evil because there is nothing evil about utilizing available resources. However, it is the responsibility of the consumer to make sure that those resources continue to remain available. In the book The End of the Line, the author, Charles Clover, remarks on how McDonald's website displays very detailed information on the breading used for the 5-ounce Fillet-O-Fish, and yet says nothing more about the actual fish other than the fact that it is pollock or hoki (Clover, 2006). What are these fish and where do they come from? None of this is stated. Information, like fish, are provided on a demand basis, so it stands to reason that the average McDonald's consumer—which is most everyone—should be more interested in where their fish are coming from. It turns out the McDonald's is incredibly responsible in its supplier choices, which are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and also very fresh. The Marine Stewardship Council recognizes sustainable fisheries with a label to that affect so that consumers can begin demanding fish that come from responsible sources.

Areas such as Nicaragua and Senegal have faced many challenges when it comes to sustainable fishing. Dependency on fishing is inherently disadvantageous to their communities almost solely because they are dependent upon it. When their stocks are challenged it puts them in a position of considerable risk if they want to attempt making sacrifices that will benefit future generations. Fishing in itself is wonderful for them, just not the dependency. If consumers and generational fishers alike hope to benefit from the sea, then diversification is needed not only in the edible species, but in fishing-dependent economies, as well.

Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback