Empty Seas: Europe Takes Africa’s Fish, and Boatloads of Migrants Follow

SHARON LAFRANIERE – The New York Times

Copyright The New York Times
KAYAR, Senegal — Ale Nodye, the son and grandson of fishermen in this northern Senegalese village, said that for the past six years he netted barely enough fish to buy fuel for his boat. So he jumped at the chance for a new beginning. He volunteered to captain a wooden canoe full of 87 Africans to the Canary Islands in the hopes of making their way illegally to Europe.
A young boy catching crabs at the port in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, where fishermen who were buying more boats less than a decade ago now complain they are in debt and looking to get out of the business.
The 2006 voyage ended badly. He and his passengers were arrested and deported. His cousin died on a similar mission not long afterward.
Nonetheless, Mr. Nodye, 27, said he intended to try again.
“I could be a fisherman there,” he said. “Life is better there. There are no fish in the sea here anymore.”
Many scientists agree. A vast flotilla of industrial trawlers from the European Union, China, Russia and elsewhere, together with an abundance of local boats, have so thoroughly scoured northwest Africa’s ocean floor that major fish populations are collapsing.
That has crippled coastal economies and added to the surge of illegal migrants who brave the high seas in wooden pirogues hoping to reach Europe. While reasons for immigration are as varied as fish species, Europe’s lure has clearly intensified as northwest Africa’s fish population has dwindled.
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