Gulf of Guinea and Indian Ocean fishermen against EU management

After a week, tensions remain unresolved in the Gulf of Guinea and the Indian Ocean, where 64 ships and approximately 2,000 crew members from Senegal and Ivory Coast -80% of the EU fleet- declared strike action.
European Fisheries Control Agency - EFCA vessel. Photo by: EFCA Facebook.
European Fisheries Control Agency - EFCA vessel. Photo by: EFCA Facebook.

After a week, tensions remain unresolved in the Gulf of Guinea and the Indian Ocean, where 64 ships and approximately 2,000 crew members from Senegal and Ivory Coast -80% of the EU fleet- declared strike action.

The coasts of West Africa and the Indian Ocean are characterized by their richness in tuna fish, which makes them one of the focal points for industrial fishing fleets. In particular for those owned by countries richer than these nations.

However, to avoid overfishing EU tuna vessels, they are required by law to remain focused on sustainability and not abusse. Or so the theory goes, which, as The Guardian reported, is being told but not followed.

According to the British media, the fishermen are tired of the abuse and need to raise their voices. "The fishermen were not only protesting poor wages and working conditions in one of the most dangerous jobs," but that these agreements are a dead letter.

With these words, they described the situation they were experiencing, directly accusing the EU fleet of unsustainable practices and urging the EU Commission to heed the voices of NGOs and conduct an investigation.

A salary well below the international minimum

As The Guardian reported, "some Senegalese and Ivorian fishermen employed on French- and Spanish-owned vessels earn as little as USD 219 (EUR 202) a month, or USD 54 (EUR 49.8) a week, according to the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), which backed the strike."

The unions informed that these salaries fall below the monthly minimum set by international institutions and violate longstanding agreements between the EU Commission and African countries, which aim to promote sustainable fisheries and employment.

The federation informed The Guardian that these agreements can be "very lucrative" for French and Spanish companies with licenses, potentially amounting to up to EUR 5 million (USD 4,42 million) annually.

Johnny Hansen, chair of the ITF fisheries sector, told the Guardian: "It is incredible that super-profitable companies and government authorities, who benefit from the highly advantageous fisheries agreements negotiated for them by the EU commission, think it is acceptable to ignore the clear provision for the ILO's Basic Minimum Wage for Seafarers."

Weeks go by, no strike but things are still up in the air

For the time being, the European fishing organizations deny the facts. In addition, the strike has been suspended for four days but awaits a proposal negotiated by the Senegalese and Ivorian authorities.

Regarding this matter, The Guardian reported several details, including a letter from a lawyer for the fishermen and fishermen's unions in Côte d'Ivoire to the director general of maritime affairs. In the letter, it is said: "the strike was lifted following a proposal to pay intermediate monthly wages equivalent to [USD 493 (EUR 455)] to the crew plus bonuses." Moreover, the letter that was dated June 8, stated that "some fishermen had been arrested and jailed, calling for release. An agreement needed to be reached within 15 days to defuse tensions." Still one week short of the expected resolution deadline.

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