Friday, February 03, 2012

Fishing in Hell

Village fishermen in Sierra Leone are facing a new threat in addition to rough seas, as foreign fishing trawlers have begun illegally fishing in their waters. The trawlers have depopulated the local fish, and there have even been incidents of small canoes, called kru, getting swamped with fishermen drowning. As the BBC reports, these incursions are endangering the livelihood of villages in Sierra Leone.

My Gut Reaction: Never mind illegal fishing. If the trawlers are so negligent that they end up swamping and killing small fishermen, we're getting into the area of manslaughter.

Analysis: The BBC report follows two fishermen, Ishmael Kain and Kaba Kain, as they go fishing to feed their village. They find that the trawlers have caught virtually all the native fish in the area, including catfish, barracuda, and sea bass. Until recently, the fish had been plentiful, but now that the trawlers have come, they are few and far between. This is not a matter of mere profit, as they are dependent on the fish to feed the village.

This is just another case of the exploitation of third world country's natural resources. Leaving aside the environmental damage of large scale fishing, the illegal fishing is wiping out the food source of an entire village, and probably many other villages in the same area. The trawlers come in the dark of night in order to avoid being caught by authorities.

More alarming is their apparent disregard for the lives of small fishermen. As Ishmael and Kaba testify, their nephew died when one of the trawlers struck their boat after warnings to slow down. Legal authorities, whether in Sierra Leone or the international community, should not tolerate this kind of disregard for human life.

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