Chinese fishing threatens the livelihoods of Sierra Leone’s fishermen | DW Documentary

The village of Tombo has lived from fishing for centuries. But now that way of life is under threat. Chinese trawlers are overfishing coastal areas with their modern fishing methods, leaving stocks depleted.

The village of Tombo in Sierra Leone has flourished since the pre-colonial era. Its population lives from fishing and wants this natural resource to feed future generations. But prosperity levels have been declining in recent years, due to the influx of Chinese trawlers overfishing the coastline – often with the clandestine backing of corrupt officials.

The men of the village are often forced to give up fishing in Tombo and seek employment in other countries. Their wives and daughters, most of whom earn a living sorting the catch and selling it at the market, are also finding themselves without work. The situation has been further exacerbated by natural catastrophes and the coronavirus lockdown.

Despite the adversity, the people of Tombo are trying to keep their families and community together. Their individual battles reflect the ecological and economic problems facing West Africa.

Fatmata has been a single mother since her husband left the village. He now has two new wives abroad and doesn’t send home any money for their son. Suliaman is a born-and-bred fisherman. But when his father blames him for the increasingly meagre catch, he decides to seek his fortune outside Sierra Leone. As spokesperson for the fishing association, Wudie attempts to unite the village community in the face of mounting challenges.

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