Illegal fishing in Africa by European Union fleets is colonialism by fishing boat rather than gunboat, resulting in economic and ecological disaster, writes UKIP leader
A new report
published today by the Environmental Justice Foundation campaign group has found that European fishing ships are pillaging African waters, causing both untold damage to the environment and to local economies. The study is the result of a two year investigation into pirate fishing in West Africa - where the EJF has been working with coastal communities to document the activities of Illegal, unreported and unregulated, or IUU, 'pirate' fishing vessels.
It found that European Union accredited boats were out of control: fishing in protected areas, using banned fishing equipment, transhipping fish illegally at sea, refusing to pay fines or to stop for fisheries patrols, attacking local fishers, bribing enforcement officers, fleeing to neighbouring countries to avoid sanctions and committing labour violations. As leader of UKIP and as a member of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee, it is my opinion that the rape of the African seas is an unintended consequence of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy. This policy has been an economic and ecological disaster, which has destroyed the fishing grounds of Europe and has now pushed European boats to illegally steal fish from poor African nations.
The EFJ report says that techniques used by the European fisherman include "using banned fishing equipment, bribes, intimidation and refusing to pay fines". It also documented photos of a local fisherman, who was beaten unconscious. This behaviour has caused the local fishing economies of these countries great financial loss. The European Commission's own figures show that illegal fishing deprives fishing communities of €18bn annually, which for communities such as Sierra Leone is a massive loss. The EU wishes to keep on expanding its political power, and land coverage, so it is not surprising that EU accredited boats are plundering the seas of other states - including poor African countries - for their natural wealth.
I call on European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to apologise and offer compensation to the poor fishermen of Sierra Leone and other nations, which these EU boats have plundered. What has happened is an absolute disgrace. This is old style colonialism. This time with fishing boats rather than a gun boat. It brings the damage caused by the CFP to wider attention, so this report should be warmly welcomed. The EU claims to be a force for eradicating poverty in Africa. However, the EU's own policies are the source of much of that poverty in the first place. This is particularly true of its fishing policies.
Decades of the ruinous CFP have meant that fish stocks were critically low in Europe, so fishing grounds outside of Europe were plundered. Attempts to steal Canadian fish were thwarted by the Canadian coast guard during the famous 'Estai' case, where a Spanish ship was caught red handed stealing Canadian fish. The EU concluded it could not get away with stealing fish from rich countries capable of policing their coastline; so instead, they would steal from poor countries. Commercial galleons from Spain, Portugal and other EU countries fragrantly violated the exclusive zones of poor African countries, sucking the oceans dry of fish. The union has also used arm twisting during 'economic partnership agreements' with African countries, forcing states to allow Europe to plunder fish stocks - which in some African states is practically the only natural resource left.
Ironically, the European fleets carry out their rapacious acts despite EU laws forbidding it. Regulation 'No. 1005/2008' aims to stop this. However, any law is only as effective as the authorities that are willing to apply it. The union also chose to kick Africa when it was down, when it decided to take advantage of the Somali civil war to raid the fishing grounds off the Horn of Africa. The civil war prevented Somali authorities from policing their waters. Fishermen from Europe then took advantage of this and plundered it. This destroyed fish stocks, and drove many coastal Somali fishermen into poverty. Many desperate former fishermen turned to piracy as a result. And Somali piracy is now a major threat to global shipping and regional security.
magazine reports that the amount of fish stolen from Somali waters by EU boats was at a value of five times the amount of money Somalia receives in foreign aid annually. Further consequences are also being felt. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that more than 6,000 Africans died trying to escape countries economically ruined by the EU's disastrous trade and fisheries policy. We need to support African countries, to help them stand up to EU bullying. And UKIP believes that the CFP has caused nothing but economic damage to Britain. Now this can be seen affecting countries that are not even in the EU. The CFP has nearly driven both the fishing industry in the United Kingdom, but also the fish themselves, to extinction. We deplore any further damage caused.
Nigel Farage MEP is leader of United Kingdom Independence Party and is co-president of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group in the European Parliament