Fishing communities demand coastal marine protected areas

Fishing communities from Indonesia, Thailand and Senegal joined forces to mark World Fisheries Day, delivering letters to officials demanding protections for the communities’ traditional fishing waters – and for the right to stewardship of those coastal areas.

Supported by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Greenpeace Africa and Greenpeace International, representatives from the Indonesian island of Sangihe, Chana district in Thailand, and Senegalese fishing towns, delivered letters to government officials in their respective countries. 

“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.

Khaireeyah Ramanyah, a youth activist from Chana district, Thailand, said: “For years the people of Chana have been fighting a large industrial estate that is threatening the sea we rely on for our livelihoods. 

“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 organized 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. 

Ndiaga Cisse, a fisherman from Mbour, Senegal, said: “We constantly monitor for trawlers stealing our fish. But we need the government to play their part too. 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.” 

Photo credit: Clément Tardif / Greenpeace. Fish processors protesting against industrial overfishing in Bargny, Senegal, with empty calabash bowls made from gourds, which symbolize the lack of fish in the seas off West Africa.

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