Exposing fishmeal


Client
Changing Markets Foundation

Photographer
Tim Webster

Shining a light on a dark and secretive industry.

Fishmeal plants have been involved in grave social and environmental scandals across the West Coast of Africa. We accompanied BBC journalist Alfonso Daniels in The Gambia to produce an undercover investigation for Changing Markets.

Background


The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa renowned for its Atlantic coastline, encompassing golden beaches, scenic lagoons, rural fishing villages and biologically rich coastal reserves.

With relatively poor governance, widespread corruption and a desperation for external investment, The Gambia has become a hotspot for the illegal practices of the fishmeal industry.

Threatening the region’s food security, fishmeal plants process huge quantities of pelagic fish – a major source of protein along the West African coast. Chinese and Mauritian trawlers deplete the oceans and outsource employment to foreign workers. Surplus fish are dumped on the beaches, metres from its seafront hotels.

The Gambia’s hopes for the future once lay in a burgeoning eco-tourism, but as intensive fishing continues, these hopes have all but disappeared.

Toxic wastewater has turned lagoons red

The story


With BBC journalist Alfonso Daniels, we travelled to The Gambia to capture photos for an exposé by Changing Markets. Despite the significant and rapid growth of the fishmeal industry, the ownership and clientele of the country’s three plants is murky. What’s clear is that these factories operate illegally, threatening livelihoods and exporting unsustainable produce to foreign markets.

Our time spent investigating the plants was characterised by opposition from officials keen to hide the human and environmental costs of these practices.  With operations that include unloading toxic wastewater into lagoons and dumping rotten fish onto the beaches, the country’s eco-tourism industry is withering, making the region reliant on foreign businesses. Outbursts from activists have been met with wide-scale arrests and crackdowns.

Read the full report ‘Fishing for Catastrophe’ here.

For how to stop this escalating crisis, visit fishingthefeed.com 

93% of all fish stocks are gravely depleted