Fisheries Policy Post EU, #Brexit.

Whelk pots from recycled plastic chemical containers

Whelk pots made from recycled plastic chemical containers

During a recent visit to Swansea I was observing the juxtaposition of the expensive pleasure craft and the fishing fleet in the harbour. Gazing at the posters of “Leave” #Brexit, in many of the fishing boats came as no surprise and reminded me of my recent musings about possible changes to the UK, particulalry the fishing industry, post EU Membership. Out of many contentious areas related to UK EU Membership, the fishing industry has to be one of the most notable.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the European Union’s (EU) instrument for the management of fisheries, aimed at enhancing the sustainability of fish stocks and the economic competitiveness of the fishing industry. However, neither the living aquatic resources, nor the profits of the fishing industry have benefited from it, with 88% of the stocks being overfished and profit margins of fishermen continuously in decline.

An ideal fisheries policy should foster the sustainable use of fish stocks, provide for coherent laws and regulations that yield adequate economic incentives, and guarantee consistent enforcement of the legal framework. Furthermore, the regulation scheme should ideally be based on transparent rules rather than a discretionary political decision-making process, which may be blurred by short-term interests. None of these principles are met by the CFP, due to, inter alia, poor consideration of fish age, class and maximum economic yields.

Britain always had a strong and traditional fishing industry and it is sure to be an interesting topic to follow over the course of the next few years. There are bound to be forthcoming articles and viewpoints of this subject on the net. Here is one supporting Brexit. Fisheries Campaign

Swansea Fishing Boats

Swansea Fishing Boats

Sargassum saga continues

From my extensive coastal and marine studies during my 3 years in Sierra Leone with African Minerals, I observed and documented the huge quantities of Sargassum that washed up onto the beaches over a number of months during 2011. The unprecedented quantities (hundreds of tonnes) of this unknown algae species prompted the Sierra Leone Government, Ministry of Environment (MoE) to blame the blight on port dredging works undertaken by African Minerals. I designed and managed all the environmental research work associated with acquiring approvals to dredge the port and tidal river channel and was of course very confident this was not a consequence of the work; particularly once I had identified the species of algae. Despite this, given the rather limited knowledge of the MoE, it proved virtually impossible to convince them; however with time, the truth appeared.

It transpired I was not the only scientist documenting this phenomenon, which was widespread throughout the West Indies, Caribbean, Mexico and other ‘high value’ coastal beach resorts. I engaged with several scientist from USA and the Caribbean and I have recently been contacted to supply further photographic evidence. The link below is a very interesting presentation of the issue.

Facing the threat of Sargassum seaweed

Sargassum species



I was not sure what to expect from my first visit to Tirana and am now on my 8th visit here since mid May. It is a lovely, vibrant city with a tremendous cafe and bar culture, so colourful in the summer time. It continues to change rapidly; an example being the central car park near the Stadiumi Kombetar Qemel Stafa, which has been a broken-up cobbled surface for years, characterised by cars weaving in and out of the pot holes and a rotund parking attendant and his skinny work mate, both in their sweaty vests at the height of summer. That has all changed this week, following the tarmac resurfacing and painting work and the installation of an automatic car parking barrier system. I don’t know the fate of the previous parking attendants….. the price of progress….

Beautiful rainbow over Tirana

Beautiful rainbow over Tirana

New car park

New car park

Whenever I am in a new country i always like to go to visit the markets to really see how people hussle for a living. In the posh area near my office one could be forgiven for thinking you were in a rich western city, with the traffic dominated by Mercedes AMG, BMW, Maserati and super cars, but the real truth can always be seen down the market. It has always interested me, all over the world, in the absence of formal planning, how like traders group together, so one has the fruit and veg place, the electrical and DIY etc. The veg markets are really colourful in a European context, as not nearly so vibrant as the West African markets I have been in for the last 5 years; and include a great many individual traders bringing goods grown in the home plots. These individuals extend the fringes of the more formal stalls and sell anything they have grown such as Sharon fruit, grapes and nuts and the like.

Small traders

Small traders

Whilst walking around I came across this beautiful old bridge and found it was The Tanners’ Bridge (AlbanianUra e Tabakëve) is an 18th-century Ottoman period stone footbridge located in TiranaAlbania. The bridge, built near the Tanners’ Mosque, was once part of the Saint George Road that linked Tirana with the eastern highlands. The road was the route by which livestock and produce entered the city. The bridge crossed the Lanë stream near the area where butcher shops and leather workers were located. The bridge fell into disrepair when the Lanë was diverted in the 1930s. In the 1990s the bridge was restored for use by pedestrians.

Tanner's Bridge Tirana

Tanner’s Bridge Tirana

Tambao Manganese Mine Burkina Faso

Gunmen kidnap Romanian from Burkina Faso mine near Mali border
Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Romanian security officer on Saturday from a manganese mining project in northern Burkina Faso, near the border with Mali’s lawless desert north, the company and a security source said.

The incident took place at the Tambao project, which is run by Pan African Minerals, a subsidiary of Frank Timis’s Timis Corporation. Timis is a Romanian-Australian businessman with investments in West African oil and mining operations.

“There was an attack on one of our patrols,” said Souleymane Mihin, Burkina Faso managing director for Pan African Minerals. “They kidnapped the Romanian leading the patrol. The driver was wounded in the foot. A gendarme was seriously injured.”

The Romanian foreign ministry issued a statement confirming the kidnapping of a Romanian in Burkina Faso and said a crisis cell had been set up to handle the case.

A Burkinabe security source said the five gunmen involved in the attack headed towards the nearby border with northern Mali after kidnapping the Romanian.

The incident took place early afternoon and teams had been scrambled in Burkina Faso to search for the man, he said. It was not clear where the gunmen came from.

There was no official comment from the Burkinabe government.

Omega FM, a local radio station in Burkina Faso, reported on its website that the kidnapped man also had French citizenship. The French foreign ministry said it had no information to suggest any French national was involved.

Northern Mali is still awash with Islamist gunmen, separatist rebels and criminal gangs, two years after a French military intervention scattered gunmen from the main towns they occupied and U.N. peacekeepers began deploying.

In the past, kidnapped foreigners have been taken into northern Mali’s desert zones and later exchanged for multi-million dollar ransom payments.

Underscoring insecurity in the zone, unidentified gunmen attacked the town of Boni, about 100 km north of the Burkina Faso border, killing two people, security forces in Mali said.

Mining industry sources said the kidnap in Burkina Faso could be linked to the fact that Pan African Minerals has had strained relations with the local community living around the mine.

Burkina Faso HSE

I periodically reflect on my experiences of the standards in HSE across the over 30 countries I have worked in. I recently came across a worker welding used oil drums in the middle of a diesel fuel store; oblivious to the dangers, until they were explained to him. Thought he might have been a contender for the first Burkinabe in space.

Welding in a fuel store

Burkina Faso Mining

This interesting article illustrates some of the challenges facing mining companies in developing Countries like Burkina Faso. The implementation of resettlement and sustainable livelihood development are often not straightforward, especially when one adds in the often very short life of mine for Gold mining and the need to try to actually leave a positive legacy after closure.
Huckbody Environmental is currently developing resettlement and livelihood restoration in Burkina Faso for a mining company.

Burkina Faso and the Sahel

The area of northern Burkina Faso I am currently working as Environmental & Social Manager in is an incredible mix of transhumance, and within 20km distance of the borders with both Niger and Mali. It is therefore populated by nomadic and semi-nomadic people from several tribes, including Tuareg, Hausa, Bella and Songhai. These people have had centuries of colourful, cultural and religious interaction, which continue today as it does in many parts of the Sahel, exacerbated very recently by issues such as the Mali incursion by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), an organization fighting to make Azawad an independent homeland for the Tuareg people, who had taken control of the region by April 2012. This has resulted in thousands of Malian refugees establishing camps inside the border in Burkina Faso. The former colonial power of France quelled this uprising in 2013 and I observed several helicopter gunships on my visits up there.
Historically the main tribal groups had some extremely interesting interactions: The Peul Fulani are a cattle herding people with heavy tattooing and facial scarification. The Peul woman are renown for having large, black tattoos over their mouths and beautiful jewellery. The Mossiare Burkina’s major ethnic group and are remarkable for their history as the only nation over the last 1000 years to not only resist the imposition of Islam but also the only nation to successfully defend themselves against the enormous empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. The Tuareg are the famous desert nomads wrapped in indigo robes and turbans who have for centuries run trans Saharan camel caravans swapping desert salt for daily necessities. The Bella tribe were originally Tuareg slaves, but even after gaining their freedom they continue their nomadic existence although to a reduced extent.


The Hausa people have a very restricted dressing code due to the fact of religious beliefs. The men are easily recognizable because of their elaborate dress which is a large flowing gown known as Babban riga and a robe called a jalabia and juanni. These large flowing gowns usually feature some elaborate embroidery designs around the neck. Men also wear colourful embroidered caps known as fula, and depending on location and occupation, may wear a Tuareg-style turban around this to veil the face (known as Alasho or Tagelmust). The women can be identified by their dressing codes in which they wear wrappers called abaya made with colourful cloth with a matching blouse, head tie and shawl.
The Hausa were famous throughout the Middle Ages, they were often characterized by their Indigo blue dressing and emblems, they traditionally rode on fine Saharan Camels and Arabian Horses.
The Tuareg (also spelled Twareg or Touareg) are a Berber people with a traditionally nomadic pastoralist lifestyle. They are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan interior of North Africa. Traditionally, Tuareg society is hierarchical, with nobility and vassals.
Like other major ethnic groups in West Africa, the Tuareg once held slaves (éklan / Ikelan in Tamasheq, Bouzou in Hausa, Bella in Songhai). The slaves called éklan once formed a distinct social class in Tuareg society. Eklan formed distinct sub-communities; they were a class held in an inherited serf-like condition, common among societies in precolonial West Africa. There are many Bella tribal people in my study area, with whom I deal with and I find them gentle, humble and incredibly passive and subservient in nature. The women generally keep to the background, but are wonderfully colourful, with beautifully ornate, hand made head wear and jewellery.

Colourful Bella tribal women

The Tuareg language, a branch of the Berber languages, has an estimated 1.2 million speakers. About half this number is accounted for by speakers of the Eastern dialect (Tamajaq, Tawallammat). Most Tuareg live in the Saharan parts of Niger, Mali, and Algeria. Being nomadic, they move constantly across national borders, and small groups of Tuareg also live in southeastern Algeria, southwestern Libya and northern Burkina Faso, and a small community in northern Nigeria.
A tagelmust is an indigo dyed cotton garment with the appearance of both a veil and a turban. The cloth may exceed ten meters in length. It is worn mostly by Tuareg men, but is sometimes used by men in other neighbouring ethnic groups, such as the Hausa or Songhai. In recent times, other colours have come into use, with the indigo veils saved for use on special occasions. It usually has many layers that cover the head, and it drapes down to loosely cover the neck.
The tagelmust is a very practical garment for the Sahara region, as it both covers the head and prevents the inhalation of wind borne sand. The indigo is also believed by many of the wearers to be healthy and beautiful, with a build up of indigo in the skin of the wearer being generally considered to protect the skin, and denote affluence. Because the tagelmust is often dyed by pounding in dried indigo instead of the normal process due to a lack of water, the dye often permanently leaches into the skin of the wearer. As such, the Tuareg are often referred to as the “blue men of the desert”.
Among the Tuareg, men who wear the tagelmust are called Kel Tagelmust, or “People of the Veil”. The tagelmust is worn only by adult males, and only taken off in the presence of close family. Tuareg men often find shame in showing their mouth or nose to strangers or people of a higher standing than themselves, and have been known to hide their features using their hands if a tagelmust is unavailable. The tagelmust has other cultural significance, as the manner in which it is wrapped and folded is often used to show clan and regional origin, and the darkness to which it is dyed showing the wealth of the wearer.

Tuareg and his transport

My adventure continues, as I look to develop a range of social development initiatives, alongside planning resettlement of this village adjacent to the new mine.
Some of the people:

Proud, but with eye problems like so many here

The kids are very poor in this village, yet colourful

Calm and colourful village folk

Smiling in the face of adversity

The class register tells a story; sizeable village but only 6 boys attend the school, no girls. Very often in Africa school attendance is influenced by many things and building a new school often makes very little difference to school attendance or educational standards in the village.

School register

The class

I like the way the machetes and swords are kept outside all the meetings that I organise.

Machetes and swords collection

Giving the kids water, but making sure to collect those dreaded plastic water bags that litter half of West Africa.

Everyone needs water

Andy hosting a community meeting; i recall all those years of shirts and ties.

Me in a meeting in a sand storm

Taking shelter at the huge Markoye market

Water delivery is an essential part of life in the Sahel; these guys are rocking with twin donkeys.

Donkey power

Burkina Faso Mining

Since April 2013, Huckbody Environmental has been providing Environmental and Social Management services to Pan African Minerals for their Tambao Manganese project in Burkina Faso, with rail transport down to the port of Abidjan in Cote D’Ivoire. The mine is located in the Sahel at the north of Burkina Faso and poses some interesting environmental and social challenges, with increasing desertification and under-development of the region. Andy’s responsibilities included direction of all Environmental and Social Management for the company, managing all ESIAs for the project; designing and managing large scale resettlement of villages near the mine; organising all compensation for land and crops affected by the bypass roads around several villages; and development of extensive community development/community investment programmes with an annual budget of $10 Million.

Drinking water cooler in school -no taps here


Young girl carrying water from the well


Me at the local camel market


Sunset after meeting


Typical homestead in Northern Burkina Faso


Typical child in my village meeting


Tuareg arriving for my meeting


The local car park


Andy entertaining the Touareg

Andy left the Project due to weak management and the associated threat to security following the Coup d’etat that overthrew the long time President Campaore. His decision proved to be correct as within a short time the mining was stopped and one of the expat security personnel kidnapped by terrorists.

Green and golden seaweed tides on the rise

I documented the phenomenon of the huge tides of Sargassum weed that were sequentially dumped along the beaches of Sierra Leone in 2011 and 12. I informed many people of this natural phenomenon, despite many trying to blame their appearance on dredging in the Pepel channel some 35-40km away!
I contributed to this article published 5 December 2013 in nature and am credited at the end. All very interesting.