La Pirogue – stolen fish and refugees


“Y’a plus de personnes ici, y’a plus de poissons.”

“No more people here, no more fish,” says one of the characters in La Pirogue, the Senegalese film directed by Moussa Touré, selected for Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2012.

Here’s a clip from La Pirogue.

Illegal fishing on a fierce industrial scale is robbing West African coastal countries of its fish, often the only protein source for millions of people.

Instead of being used for local, sustainable fishing, the painted pirogue is used to transport desperate people on a perilous sea journey. The film is dedicated to the thousands of Africans who have died crossing the Atlantic to Europe.

If they had their fish, they would not risk crossing the ocean in a wooden boat.

Much of this stolen fish ends up in Europe, says the Environmental Justice Foundation in its recent report, Exposing Pirate Fishing: The Fight Against Illegal Fishing in West Africa and the EU.

Everything is connected. The would-be migrants who try to enter Fortress Europe are suffering from the illegal trade in seafood sold to Europe.

La Pirogue opened the Afrika Eye Film Festival on the 9 November 2012. I was helping the sixth Afrika Eye Film Festival with its social media, and saw a connection for another client, Charles Redfern’s sustainable canned fish brand, Fish4Ever.

He in turn saw a link with the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and sponsored their stall at La Pirogue’s screening.

Here is Charles Redfern and Kate, a marine scientist, who ran the EJF information stall at the Afrika Eye Film Festival, at the Watershed, Bristol.

Charles has family links to Sierra Leone, also ravaged by illegal fishing.  In 2011, he raised £9k to help the EJF buy Sierra Leone a new monitoring boat. This boat featured in an Al Jazeeera video investigation as it chased two South Korean trawlers fishing illegally.

David Dravie-John from Sierra Leone, and Charles, connected at the opening night. David Dravie-John wanted to interview Charles on his Bristol-based radio on Ujima 98 FM, but as Charles is Reading-based, I agreed to be interviewed instead.

Positive change starts with awareness. I have to communicate the problem because it’s part of finding the solution.

The Zimbabwean film maker, Afrika Eye Film Festival co-founder, and director of Robert Mugabe – What Happened, Simon Bright, says in my interview for Bristol247, “Film has the power to transform political events”.

…”so that the beautiful African pirogues will never again serve to transport human misery,” as a blogger wrote.

Fish4Ever’s ethical sourcing policy refuses to buy from long distance foreign fleets fishing in the coastal waters of developing countries.


And here’s a picture of Charles eating lentil soup I made with Fish4Ever anchovies, + cut-up sweated small cubes of fennel, leek and swede (a veg trio inspired by healthy-food-on-a-budget Square Food Foundation’s chef Barny Haughton).

Delicious sustainable fish, and food security for poor countries.

Have I helped join up the dots?

5 responses to “La Pirogue – stolen fish and refugees

  1. Positive change starts with awareness – yes! – and you are so much a part of that. Thank you for joining up the dots so succinctly!

  2. Thanks E for once again shedding light on a very dark subject….when will we ever learn?

  3. Another awful tragedy is the Westerners’ lust for shrimp which has turned coastal fishing areas in S E Asia into cash shrimp farms, instead of farming sustainably and for the food needs of the local population.

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