Posted 10 мая 2021,, 15:10
Published 10 мая 2021,, 15:10
Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37
Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37
On the Atlantic coast of the smallest African country, Gambia, pies are moored day and night in the small town of Gunzhur. At the dock, fishermen pass the fish to women, an idyllic sight watched by tourists. Der Spiegel publishes an investigative journalism conducted by the Outlaw Ocean Project.
There is a three-meter fence just 200 meters from the pier. Behind it is the Golden Lead Chinese fishmeal factory. The disgusting smell is felt not only on the territory of the factory, but throughout the entire district.
Filming, secretly taken by one of the workers, shows inhuman working conditions. There is no ventilation, the men, drenched in sweat, throw the local bong herring into a steel funnel with shovels. On the conveyor, the fish enters the boilers, where it is ground into a slimy mass, from which fat is removed in long cylindrical ovens. The skimmed mass is ground into a fine powder and stored in the center of the hangar in meter heaps. After the powder cools down, workers fill 50-kilogram bags with it. One container holds 400 bags, and workers fill 20 to 40 containers a day, says environmentalist Mustafa Manneh. This one factory produces 800 tons of fishmeal per day. Containers filled with fishmeal are sent daily from Gunzhur to China and Norway. It is fed to fish raised in aquaculture, which is then sold all over the world.
Since the 1960s, the consumption of fish and seafood has doubled globally. It is already impossible to satisfy the demand with caught fish. Humanity has found a way out: instead of fishing, aquaculture is developing. To date, half of the fish sold is grown in aquaculture. The total turnover of this industry is estimated at $ 260 billion. It is the fastest growing segment of the food industry.
Fish feed costs account for 50 to 90% of total costs. The only feed is fishmeal. The absurdity of the situation is that fish farms consume more fish than they then sell themselves in supermarkets and restaurants. For example, one tuna eats 15 times more fresh fish, from which flour is made, than it weighs itself. 25% of all fish caught in the world is turned into flour.
There is more than one Chinese factory in The Gambia. More than 50 fishmeal production complexes have been built along the entire western coast from Mauritania and Senegal to Guinea-Bissau.
The local population does not get anything from this. Their losses are irreplaceable. They have nothing to eat, the habitual way of life is destroyed and nature dies.
Golden Lead is one of the outposts of China's economic and geopolitical project known as the Belt and Road Initiative. The Chinese government claims that it improves the standard of living in poor countries, it finances joint projects and provides a chance for development for backward states. Africa has become such a project for China. Here, the Celestial Empire controls all the largest infrastructure projects - the construction of expensive, pipelines, power plants and ports. In 2017, China forgave the Gambia a $ 14 million debt and invested 33 million in the country for the development of agriculture and fisheries - in addition to Golden Lead, it built two more such factories on 80 km of the Gambian coast. The residents of Gunzhur were promised jobs, a fish market and paved roads across the city. In fact, these factories brought industrial trawlers into their waters, which catch all the fish stocks, leaving nothing to the local fishermen. The familiar ecotourism-based economy broke down the day the Golden Lead began recycling and poisoned the air with toxic fumes. Tourists no longer come to hotels and do not eat in local restaurants - this stench cannot be endured.
Jobs in the Gambia have not increased either. The production of fishmeal is quite simple, the process is mechanized, 10-20 people are needed per shift. But the bongo herring, which was so much that at the end of the bazaar, the sellers distributed it to the poor for free, simply disappeared, and it costs so much that the locals can no longer afford this fish. The Gambia is a poor country, half of the population lives below the poverty line, and bonga was the only source of protein for about an hour. However, the Gambian government is defending Chinese investors by saying the Gambian fisheries are booming.
But that's not all. Three years ago, the Bolong Fenyo lagoon near the city turned purple, and dead fish were swimming on the surface. Several years ago, the commune declared the lagoon a nature reserve, which was inhabited by migratory birds, dolphins, bats, crocodiles and monkeys. The variety was amazing. These attracted ecotourists and contributed to the financial recovery of the region. When an environmental disaster struck, residents collected water samples and sent them to a laboratory in Germany. The results were appalling: the water contained twice as much arsenic and tens of times as much nitrate and phosphate. The activists sent a letter to the government and called the Chinese factory the only possible culprit in the incident. After a meager fine, the management of the factory stopped dumping waste into the lagoon, but stretched a pipe to the beach, through which the entire coast was already poisoned. Bathers complain of skin rashes, the sea is overgrown with algae, the dead fish are thrown on land every now and then, turtles, dolphins and stingrays are dying. Activists have tapped the press, but the government has already warned disaffected that their actions threaten foreign investment. One senior official from the Ministry of Fisheries came up with what he called the stench from the factory "the smell of money." The factory denies everything. The director said that there is nothing like that, there is complete understanding between the residents and the factory, the Chinese even invest in local education and regularly pay donations for Ramadan. Not a word was said about the treatment plant.