Biting the Hand that Feeds You

Biting the Hand that Feeds You

This week's New York Times article Europe Takes Africa's Fish and Migrants Follow raises a perplexing problem:

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.

Last year roughly 31,000 Africans tried to reach the Canary Islands, a prime transit point to Europe, in more than 900 boats. About 6,000 died or disappeared, according to one estimate cited by the United Nations.

The question then arises: who bears the brunt of responsibility for these dwindling fish populations and the subsequent affect on local fishers? The foreign boats which deplete the waters and the foreign consumers which demand them to do so? The local governments, who strapped for cash, make decisions to sell resources needed by their people to fill the government coffers and/or fund state programs?

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