Why We Need to Protect West Africa’s Marine Wildlife
Tuesday, 11 Apr, 2023
Wednesday, 25 Sep, 2019
Last month, an eco-guard from Gabon’s National Parks (National Agency for National Parks) came across a humpback whale that was entangled in a discarded Fish Aggregating Device (FAD). The whale had been struggling for some time, and was in urgent need of assistance.
Gabon’s waters are rich in biodiversity, and a hot-spot for whales and dolphins. This abundance of life also attracts large scale commercial fishing vessels, whose fishing methods have a huge impact on non-target species as a result of by-catch and discarded fishing gear.
"There was no other boats available or divers so I responded on the call. When reaching the whale I went in to have a closer look. It was stuck in a FAD and a net. The visibility was poor so I could not see what was going on. I started to cut any ropes that had tension and cut the net as well.”
Over several hours, the rangers put their bodies on the line to try and save the whale despite the dangerous conditions.
"The boat picked me up and we followed the whale, and I jumped in behind the whale and held onto the buoy. It pulled me for about 1.5 km while I was cutting the buoy loose. The square plastic buoy was like a parachute behind the whale. With every rope cut the drag got less and she swam stronger. I managed to get through the last rope on the tail before I let go from exhaustion.”
A small aircraft later confirmed that the whale was swimming free without the FAD and net attached to its tail. Gabon Parks was able to collect the discarded FADS, removing them from the ocean and transporting them to their base.
While this is a story with a happy ending, other whales aren’t so lucky. It is estimated that over 300,000 whales and dolphins die every year in our oceans a result of industrial fishing practices. This is one of the many reasons why our work around the African continent against illegal, unreported and unregulated is so important to the protection of marine wildlife worldwide.
To find out more about our campaigns against illegal fishing, click here.