From Paul Salopek story, Fade to Blue: In Senegal, fishers in hand-dug canoes have been plowed under by European trawlers. Indonesian gunboats now protect domestic fishermen by blasting foreign poachers out of the water. And bizarre cops-and-robbers chases have begun roiling even Antarctica’s remote seas: Last August, an Australian patrol boat pursued a sea bass pirate more than 4,000 miles across the bottom of the world. But the ultimate redoubt of the fishing wars–conflicts that northern consumers benefit from but hardly know exist–is the immensely long, untamed and vulnerable shoreline of sub-Saharan Africa. For decades, European, Russian, Japanese and Korean boats–both legal and piratical–have raked Africa’s rich continental shelves. Now China, a powerful new player in the world’s fish race, has steamed into the African battlefield.
Foreign trawlers have hammered patches of coastline so hard that fish have become locally scarce–a blow to a nation where a million people rely on UN food aid. “It’s not worth going to sea,” says Jose Texeira da Cunha, an unemployed fisherman in Tombua, a forgotten port of crumbling stone houses and old fish meal factories corroding to rust. “You have to stay out for three days to get the same catches you once got in eight hours.” A dollar a day is the best living most fishermen can hope to wring out of the ocean, da Cunha says. Now some refugees from Angola’s fishing wars are even pushing into deserted coastline, seeking more fish. On virgin beaches, they clap together raw outposts of corrugated zinc and flotsam washed up by the Atlantic. Skinny-legged, bull-chested, shouting gruffly, the men heave their plank boats through the breakers at dawn. And their wives and rag-clad children ululate and dance on the sand, wishing them luck.Buy This Image