Kukka Ranta‘s seven-year research project in Europe, West Africa, the Arctic sea, South-East Asia, and Finland is a story about people facing major changes.
In spring 2010, Kukka Ranta woke up to the high number of undocumented immigrants in Barcelona. She started taking photographs of and interviewing street vendors, many of whom told her that they had previously worked as fishermen in West Africa. They had travelled to Europe, fleeing poverty, after the collapse of fish stocks as a result of overfishing and illegal fishing practised by European and Asian fishing vessels.
The most valuable fish end up in the world’s biggest fish market of Europe and Asia. More than 70 per cent of the fish consumed in the EU is imported. It is estimated that half of the imported fish is caught illegally. At worst, fishing and fish production are linked to the use of slave labour, as in Thailand.
Even as it is, the decline of fish stocks means a food security crisis for millions of the world’s people. In many countries with rapid population growth, fish is the most important source of animal protein. Fishing is one of the world’s biggest employers. The depletion of natural marine resources increases unemployment by the millions, and undermines regional economic development.
The mass poverty caused by the environmental crisis may force people into crime or piracy, or into risking their lives by becoming migrants.
Kukka Ranta (born 1982) is an investigative journalist, author and photographer.