Oversea is an on-going photographic project which has set out to report on the situation regarding the marine and fishing conditions on our planet.
Chapter 1: Senegal
Senegal is the dramatic proof of how and why we are rapidly emptying our oceans. The climate chaos and changes to the ocean play an important role. Although the main cause is human greediness, fed by the corruption of governments and the indifference of the public, the result is the decline of the marine food chain; our greatest common resource.
The seas of eastern Africa are on the brink of collapse. Over-exploitation of the fishing industry, environmental decline, and corruption; the Senegalese fishermen are worried that if it continues like this there will be no fish left in ten years’ time. An alarming decline, due to the hyperactivity of foreign fishing trawlers. Chinese, Russian, Korean, European: in one day they can catch as many fish as the 56 local dugouts do in a year.
Even before talking about the geography of Senegal, it is its etymology which shows that Senegal lives in harmony with its waters: Sunu-gal, in the Wolof language, means “our dugouts”. For centuries the Senegalese boats effortlessly sailed the sea, some boats are longer than 20 metres while others can just about carry two people.
In less than 20 years, the situation of the African countries facing the Atlantic Ocean, from Morocco to Senegal, down as far as Togo, has got so bad as to put millions of people at risk, according to FAO. In Senegal, for example, the life of one in five people is directly linked to marine resources.
Behind the scenes are enormous business transactions, tied not only to the fishing market, but also to the system of issuing fishing licenses by the African countries. The commercial fleets, subsidized by the governments, take out much more than is recommended by biologists and the scientific community. The national authorities and institutions which preside over the sector meet behind closed doors, in meetings where infamous fishing quotas are distributed among the various world powers, and where the paradoxical phrase: “Sustainable Overfishing” was coined.
Millionaire subsidies allow whole fleets to plunder distant fishing areas. A calamity whose impact on the community of fishermen in the world is devastating. The foreign powers are undisturbed while they destroy not only the coastal economies of the Pacific Ocean but also those throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Many fishermen are left with having to go further out from the coast and face the perils of the open sea. Suffocated by debts they turn into pirates, drug traffickers and migrant carriers. From the coast of Senegal, the young fishermen still look towards Europe. They dream of a distant future, in spite of the shipwrecks and the thousands of people lost at sea.