Our oceans are incredible. They cover 70% of the planet and from the largest animal to ever live to the tiniest bacteria, over a million species call our oceans home. But our fishing addiction and environmentally destructive fishing techniques are changing the very nature of our oceans and putting its vast and varied biodiversity at risk. Many of our marine and coastal ecosystems are on the brink of collapse; 90% of the world’s large ocean fish - like cod, halibut and swordfish - have been lost since the 1950s.
Supporting grassroots conservation
EJF is working to document and expose the environmentally destructive fishing techniques that put our ocean’s health at risk and the illegal trade and poaching of marine species including sharks, rays and turtles that threaten these magnificent creatures’ future.
EJF is working to build local capacity amongst a new generation of ocean defenders. We aim to harness local strengths, expertise and skills and to give recognition to the local individuals and communities who are taking a lead on protecting their natural world.
EJF is working globally to protect endangered sharks. We are calling for a global ban on shark finning and are working in Liberia to secure a National Plan of Action to protect sharks, and for the first time give legal protection to these threatened species, with the aim of building our work across the West African region.
EJF is supporting grassroots education and community leaders to protect marine turtles in West Africa, with a focus on Liberia and Ghana. We will devise new ways to show the importance of these creatures in sustaining fish stocks and protecting ocean habitats.
EJF is calling for the protection and expansion of Inshore Exclusion Zones - reserved for artisanal fishers - and Marine Protected Areas to allow fish stocks to recover and to provide refuge for endangered or vulnerable species.
EJF is calling for the complete ban on destructive fishing gears, including bottom-trawling, electro-fishing, and the use of explosives and poison as an important step towards limiting bycatch levels and recovering the marine environment for the benefit of marine species and the coastal communities.
EJF is calling for all countries to require their vessels to show documentation of bycatch capture and to levy strong and appropriate penalties against those vessels discarding bycatch without documentation. If adequately enforced this would act as a deterrent against vessels dumping bycatch back in the ocean.
Turtles have been on Earth for over 100 million years
If we don’t take time, very soon, within 10 to 20 years time, there will be no more turtles.
Rafael Ahumah, turtle conservation worker, Dzita, Ghana
Protecting sharks and turtles in Liberia and beyond
West Africa’s rich coastal waters are a haven for wildlife species including turtles, dolphins and sharks, and support plentiful fish stocks. But as illegal fishing continues to cost this impoverished region in excess of US$1 billion every year, fish stocks are in decline and environmentally destructive techniques, including illegal dynamite fishing, the poaching of endangered turtles, and the removal of mangrove forests have become rife.
In Liberia, high levels of overfishing and illegal fishing and a failure to implement conservation measures have left endangered species, such as sharks, unprotected. Many sharks fall victim to unsustainable fishing methods as bycatch, while others are targeted by desperate fishers looking to make up a shortfall in income.
Using our experience helping local communities document pirate fishing, EJF is building a community of ocean defenders in Liberia, and across West Africa, raising awareness of the importance of threatened marine species and building community science programmes to document shark populations and implement conservation interventions.
We live on a blue planet. Millions of people depend on fish for their essential food and income. We are taking too many fish from the oceans and that has led to illegal, pirate, fishing and even slavery.
EJF Oceans Ambassador, Max Rogers
A National Plan of Action
Since 2013, EJF has worked in Liberia to build capacity amongst local fishing communities to investigate species being caught by the country’s artisanal fishers. Our investigations uncovered a huge global market for shark fins, and highlighted gaps in the monitoring and protection of these endangered species.
Meanwhile, by working with local communities, and by using film and video to document illicit activities and celebrate these wonderful species, we’ve been able to raise public awareness, advocate for a National Plan of Action to protect Liberian sharks and tackle another disturbing impact of illegal fishing; turtle poaching.
On the brink
By the year 2100, without significant changes, more than half of the world’s marine species may stand on the brink of extinction.
EJF works with local communities across Liberia and Ghana to protect sea turtle nesting sites. In Ghana, for example, six species of sea turtle once nested on beaches. Sadly only three remain. The largest of these, the leatherback turtle, is critically endangered in the region. EJF works alongside local authorities to help raise awareness of the vital importance turtles play for food security and livelihood, and organise night patrols on the beaches where turtles go to nest, in a bid to reverse this trend.
Our oceans are amazing. They are home to millions of beautiful and magnificent creatures. But their home is being destroyed, as we continue to pollute our oceans and unsustainably and illegally fish the vital species that call them home.
Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto, Eley Kishimoto
Tackling destructive fishing methods
Much like sharks, turtles are at risk even before they reach the shoreline, threatened by the destructive techniques used by illegal fishers. Operating outside the law, these unscrupulous crews fish without licenses and in closed areas, and use destructive fishing practices that damage habitats and deplete fish stocks. During EJF’s time investigating illegal fishing in West Africa, we’ve exposed the devastation inflicted by these destructive methods including dynamite fishing and bottom trawling, a high destructive technique where heavy nets are dragged along the ocean floor, destroying habitats and scooping up all marine life in its path.
Such methods are wasteful and damaging. They disrupt ecosystems and make no exception for vulnerable and endangered species such as sharks and rays, turtles, seabirds, whales and dolphins. It is estimated that over 7 million tonnes of non-target marine life are caught in fishing gears each year. A bottom-trawler vessel alone dumps 75% of catch - dead or dying - back into the ocean as bycatch. This not only puts amazing species at risk but is perpetuating a crisis where people - often local coastal communities - continue to go hungry, unable to get the food they need to survive.