The African artisanal fishing sector and some NGOs file a complaint with the EU

The Coalition for fair fisheries agreements (CAPE), the African Confederation of professional artisanal fishing r(CAOPA), the Regional Partnership for coastal and marine conservation (PRCM), Danish Living Seas and Bloom have lodged a joint complaint with the UE requesting the European Commission to start an infringement procedure against Italy, on the ground that, by virtue of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), Italian authorities have failed to control and sanction the illegal fishing activities in which Italian trawlers have been involved in the waters of Sierra Leone. As a matter of fact, these trawlers made an incursion into the coastal area reserved for artisanal fishing, catching and unduly transhipping species for which they were granted any authorization.

They already have a record of illegal activities in the sub-region, as documented by Greenpeace, Oceana and CAPE: catching of sharks, violation of the regulation pertaining to attached fins, illegal incursions into the waters of neighbouring countries in West Africa, and use of a prohibited fishing gear in the Gambia. In this regard, the President of CAOPA, Mr. Gaoussou Gueye, stated that: “Whenever UE officials visit a country, they always stress the importance of combatting illegal fishing. The UE maintains that European fishing fleets fish legally and in a sustainable manner. Yet, a number of European vessels fish in a way that is far from being sustained, if not downright illegal, as the Italian trawlers in question have been doing for years in West Africa.

Should the EU want to remain credible and build a relationship of trust with African countries, it should not accept such a behaviour from a number of its fishing vessels. These must be watched and duly sanctioned whenever they do not comply with our countries’ laws and the EU Common Fishery Policy”. The Italian trawlers, that belong to two Sicily-based companies, have never been subjected to a control by Italy, the pavilion state, let alone sanctioned for illegal activities. An infringement procedure was launched in December 2016 by the European Commission against Italy for the illegal activities undertaken in the Gambia and Guinea Bissau, but is currently at a standstill, more than two years later.

While the European Union defends sustainable fishing and claims to combat IUU fishing at the global level, it is unacceptable that it allows a number of vessels flying the flag of one of its member states to be involved in IUU fishing off the coast of African countries, with impunity. The EU must take actions now.

For more information, please contact the CAPE Secretariat at