New West Africa Fisheries Journalism Project Aims to Turn Tide

With the goal of improving journalists’ ability to expertly tackle the often overlapping issues of overfishing, food security and ocean governance, EJN’s fisheries project also aims to further explore the economic and social consequences of overfishing on coastal communities in West Africa, through stories and investigations.

The region of West Africa was selected because it is widely recognized as having some of the highest instances of overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU, as it is commonly referred to) fishing.

With the support of the Adessium Foundation and working with local and regional partners, EJN aims to empower West African environmental journalists to expertly address overfishing by giving them the necessary tools – through story grants, training materials, workshops and mentorship – to cover these issues through various prisms, including through its socio-economic impact on coastal communities.

The two-year project reflects the goals of Target 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG14) adopted in 2015 by the UN General Assembly to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”


Because the region, and the issues are so vast, much of our training work at this stage will focus primarily but not exclusively in Ghana and Senegal. EJN will be holding two media workshops, one in each country, run by and for journalists, catering to both francophone and anglophone journalists over the course of the project.

In addition, EJN will soon be launching a call for applications for ocean reporting story grants from the region. The call will coincide with the UN Oceans Conference on SDG14, set to start on World Oceans Day, June 8th, 2017.

EJN Executive Director James Fahn will be attending the conference and participating in a side event on “Hacking Science for Ocean Literacy: What’s needed to fully implement SGD14?”  The panel discussion will take place on Friday, June 9 at 11 am in Conference Room A of the UN Conference Building in New York City, and will also feature other journalists and thought leaders from the field of science and environmental media discussing how best to raise awareness about the sustainability challenges facing the oceans.

Overfishing – a global problem

“As ever increasing portions of the ocean must now be fished in order to simply maintain catch levels, there is a real need to make the public more aware of the impacts and drivers of overfishing, and its economic and social consequences. Developing the expertise of the media to tackle this issue in the region can play a positive role in reinforcing local, national and regional efforts in the region,” said Mona Samari, Project Manager for EJN.

Close to one billion people rely on fish as their primary source of protein and, collectively, the nations of the world catch around 90 million metric tons of wild fish and shellfish from the oceans annually. Most of the world’s fish stocks are being harvested unsustainably and it is widely recognized that there are simply too many boats, nets, and hooks in the water and not enough monitoring on the high seas. According to the World Bank’s “Sunken Billions” report, the world’s fishing fleet is more than twice as large as it needs to be to catch at levels that can be sustainably harvested.

EJN’s Covering the Seas Reporting Toolkit – available in Chinese, Japanese, English and Indonesian — highlights how the ocean is one of the most dynamic and yet most under-reported food systems on the planet.

As part of its long-running Ocean Media Initiative, EJN has carried out numerous projects working with journalists and media organizations on sustainable fisheries issues in Asia (particularly Indonesia and China), Europe (focused on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy) and Latin America. It has also developed a series of stories called Future Oceans on the prospects for marine management in an era marked by technological disruption.