Resisting the next wave of real estate speculation in Spain

ROAR Collective on October 22, 2015 | By Marc Font and Gemma Garcia, collaboratively translated by Melissa García and Desiree Fields. Photo by Kukka Ranta.

A new speculative bubble may be taking shape as global investment firms buy devalued real estate in Spain. Will they beat a new path of dispossession?


Resisting the next wave of real estate speculation in Spain, an article first published in La Directa and after translated to ROAR Magazine including further background and analysis for readers not familiar with the crisis in Spain.
Read more:

The Asylum Issue

Mask Magazine October 2015 #21 | Cover Photo Kukka Ranta


On the cover Palestinian girl reading in occupied East Jerusalem after her house was bulldozed to the ground by Israeli soldiers. Photo by Finnish freelance journalist and photographer Kukka Ranta. Interview with photographer to follow.

Check out the interview with Kukka published on November 3rd, 2015 including many photos along the road:maskmagazine-kukkaranta-112015

Illicit Migration to Europe: Consequences of Illegal Fishing and Overfishing in West Africa

Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime | 8.5.2015
Photo credits and research: Kukka Ranta.

The populations of West Africa, home to one of the world’s most resource-rich marine environments, is suffering widespread poverty and a paucity of legitimate livelihoods in part due to high levels of foreign illegal fishing and overfishing.

When local fish stocks collapsed in Senegal in 2005, about 5,000 West Africans fled poverty to the Canary Islands in wooden handmade boats that the fishermen couldn’t afford to use commercially anymore. The following year, that number climbed to more than 31,000 migrants. In 2006, an estimated 6,000 West Africans lost their lives attempting to pursue a better future in Europe.

Most of these migrants were from Senegal and Mauritania, the countries with which the EU has its largest and oldest fisheries agreements.  The roots of the current illicit migration crisis in the Mediterranean is, in many ways, a crisis of Europe’s own making.

West Africa is estimated to have the highest levels of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing on Earth. Foreign vessels are taking advantage of some of the world’s poorest countries, which can’t afford to guard their own territorial waters and where the corruption index is often among the highest in the world.

Since the world’s leading fishing powers have emptied their own waters, the problem of industrial overfishing is being exported to distant seas. The European Union made its first bilateral fishing agreement in Africa with Senegal in 1979, and soon afterwards Chinese trawlers and other Asian vessels entered West African waters, many of them operating illegally.  Many of the vessels involved in illegal activities in West Africa are operating under flags of convenience. According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, a significant number of these vessels are originally owned by European companies.

West African coastal states are losing $1.3 billion annually and 37 % of their annual catch to IUU fishing. Most of the illegally-caught fish is taken to the EU and China, the world’s biggest fish markets, where demand is constantly growing. At the same time, industrial overfishing is destroying the livelihoods and food security of some of the world’s poorest people, forcing them to seek new, and hopefully more secure futures elsewhere.

The photo essay and text is based on original research in West Africa by Kukka Ranta.

Read the Illegal Fishing: the overlooked organized environmental crime report by the Black Fish and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.  

The IUU Fishing and Organized Crime

The Black Fish & Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime
April 2015 | Cover Photo by Kukka Ranta

theblackfish_GI_FishingCrime2015_Cover_KukkaRantaNew Report on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing as Transnational Organized Crime.

Published at the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Doha, Qatar, 12-19 April 2015.

Cover photo and photography illustration partly by Kukka Ranta.

Read the report:

EU Fisheries Partnerships with Senegal: Lessons Learned for PCD

European Centre for Development Policy Management 19.2.2015 | Kukka Ranta

The effects of the EU’s fisheries policies on the livelihoods of West Africans is a stark and urgent example of where ‘Policy Coherence for Development’ can be a matter of life and death.

Senegal was the first sub-Saharan African nation to sign a fisheries agreement with European Community back in 1979. The agreement was not renewed in 2006 after the local fish stocks collapsed – a result of massive overfishing by European and other foreign vessels in the region.

After an eight-year pause, the EU and Senegal have recently signed a new five-year Fisheries Partnership Agreement starting in 2015. According to the agreement, up to 38 EU boats catching mainly tuna enter Senegalese waters in return for a EUR 8,69 million EU payment.

Local fishermen were not included in the negotiations and they have strongly opposed the agreement along with Greenpeace. By looking back to the recent history can one find a better understanding why?

The Reality for Senegalese Fishermen

According to Senegalese fishermen I interviewed during the winter of 2011-2012, in the 1990s there was enough fish for everyone. You could get a decent catch within a few hours just five to ten kilometers offshore.

By 2000, the fishermen began noticing the alarming disappearance of local fish population. Now fishermen in Senegal must travel at least forty kilometers out to sea, which means more fuel costs but usually less incomes with dramatically declined catches.

By 2005 the incomes of local fishermen crashed and centuries-old fishing beaches began to fill with deserted boats. Every day local fishermen watched European and Asian trawlers ploughing the coastline. Handmade wooden boats can’t compete with these subsidised industrial vessels.

Added to this, local fishermen have often been forced to turn back their boats because of vast rafts of bycatch by foreign vessels. Tons of unwanted or juvenile fish, dolphins, sharks and turtles, are often dumped back in the sea already dead. Bycatch in West Africa is estimated to be at its worst 75 percent from the total catch.

Fishing now employs some 600,000 or nearly one million Senegalese when you take into account all the entire production chain. In comparison, the European fisheries sector generates about 139,000 full-time jobs, mainly in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and France.

Many Senegalese fish processing factories have recently had to close down because of insufficient catch. Clients from the EU and Asian markets are disappearing, and when local factories close down, everyone in the local fisheries sector loses.

The annual consumption of fish continues to increase in most continents, especially in the largest fish markets like the EU and China. But in sub-Saharan Africa consumption is declining. This may have a knock on effect on nutrition security in a region with a fast growing population, as it is represents a vital source of animal protein.

Senegalese fisher families now have to survive on one or two meals a day, depending on what the sea provides. If there is no fish, many are forced to eat only sugared rice. Fewer families can afford to educate their children or cover medical expenses. For many, poverty has become a self-perpetuating cycle.

Developments in EU Policy

While the EU was renewing its Common Fisheries Policy in 2002, the World Wildlife Fund reported a 50% decline of deep-sea fish stocks in West Africa. But, from the European side there was not enough political will to change the course to reflect on the impact of their policies in West Africa.

Now many overfished species like shrimps, cephalopods and small pelagic species like sardine, sardinella and horse mackerel are being left out from the EU-Senegal Fisheries Partnership agreement, as an improvement in sustainability.

But the problem is the use of the Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) in EU tuna seiners that cause high amount of bycatch. Also there are two bottom trawlers targeting demersal hake, regardless the CRODT – Oceanographic Research Center recommend to limit fishing that overfished stock in the inter-ministerial council.

According to the European Union’s new common fisheries policy (CPF) agreed in 2013, one core principle is a ban on discarding fish at sea, which will be set in EU waters starting gradually from 2015. But the discard ban is only applicable in EU waters, not in the territorial waters of Africa.

Where Coherence in Fisheries Policies Matters for Development, and Life

When the fish stocks collapsed in 2005, around 5,000 West Africans fled poverty in wooden boats to the Canary Islands, with a hope of better future in Europe. That number rose to over 31,000 in a year, some 6,000 people drowned in the Atlantic Ocean.

Most of these migrants were from Senegal and Mauritania, the EU ’s two biggest fisheries agreement partners. When there is a total collapse of fish stocks, it causes an eco catastrophe and destroys food security and livelihoods for millions of the world’s poorest people. Do we ever learn that bad politics and the endless contest for markets is no good for our collective interest and the common good?

Kukka Ranta is a PhD Candidate and Researcher at the University of Helsinki, Investigative Journalist, Nonfiction Author and Photojournalist from Finland.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM

Photo Courtesy of Kukka Ranta

Africa-Europe Relations #Post2015
A Blog on Africa – Europe Relations —- #AfricaEU2015 #EYD2015 #Post2015

New research queries illegal fishing as organised crime

The Black Fish 29.1.2015 | Kukka Ranta & Wietse van der Werf

Is illegal fishing a form of organised crime? In which circumstances should it be treated as such? What approaches are necessary to tackle it? These are some of the main questions driving new research carried out by The Black Fish in partnership with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, investigating the links between illegal fishing and organised crime.Seminar@NLatUN_ORganizedCrime_lUUfishing_SDGs_KukkaRANTAPhoto by Kukka Ranta

A consultation draft of a new report on the issue was presented at an expert seminar on organised crime and sustainable development, held last week at the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN in New York.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) a major threat to marine life is illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing with annual global catch estimated at $10-30 billion (USD). In 2005 the FAO estimated that 75% of the world’s fish stocks were fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. In Europe, 85% of fish stocks are in trouble and roughly half of fish products traded through Europe is believed to have illegal origins.

“A comprehensive recognition of the various drivers behind illegal fishing is needed in order to find the right tools to stop transnational criminal organisations from destroying our oceans. This research plays a major role in that effort.” said Wietse van der Werf, International Director at The Black Fish.

The upcoming report, which is set to be published in April, will highlight how the highly organised nature of illegal fishing operations justify treating this activity as a form of organized crime. Illegal fishing is also highly transnational in its scope and is supported by a wide range of illicit activity, including money and fish laundering, tax evasion, fraud, corruption, bribary and violence. Furthermore, illegal fishing operations have also been found to be linked to other forms of organised crime, including drug smuggling, human trafficking and forced labour.

Van der Werf: “Our work is uncovering some shocking facts about the dark side of the fishing industry. Case studies focused on different forms of transnational fishing crime have come from all over the world, including Europe and the US.”

Last week’s seminar brought together law enforcement and development specialists to discuss how organised crime obstructs good implementation of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Mark Shaw, one of the founders of the Global Initiative talked about the need for the international community to act fast.

“Lack of cooperation was one of the main reasons to start this debate”, said Shaw on the topic, which was recently highlighted at the UN level. “The real challenge is how to make progress in multiple sectors. The debate is just starting and there is a lot of work to be done.”

Master’s Award in Development Studies 2014

Kukka Ranta, doctoral student at CRADLE, was granted by the UniPID and the Finnish Society for Development Research the 2014 Master’s Award in Development Studies 2nd place for her thesis: Robbed Sea – The consequences of the EU fisheries agreements for the Food Security and Livelihood of local fishermen in Senegal, completed at the University of Helsinki, Department of Political and Economic Studies.


In a picture (left) 2. awarded Kukka Ranta (University of Helsinki, development studies), emeritus professor Rauni Räsänen, 3. awarded Lauri Heimo (University of Tampere, social policy), emeritus professor Reijo E. Heinonen, 1. awarded Henry Salas Lazo (University of Helsinki, Latin American studies) and emeritus professor Olavi Luukkanen (photo: Tommy Standun).

The selection board was comprised of emeritus professor Rauni Räsänen, emeritus professors Reijo E. Heinonen and Olavi Luukkanen. The board gave special attention to the societal applicability and impact, and innovativeness of the work:

“Ranta’s study reveals how the international politics on fishing also have an impact on emigration, on understanding environmental sustainability and on reaching the Millennium Development Goals. In media and immigration studies, the focus has usually been on the effects of immigration on societies and countries which have not been able to assimilate newcomers into their social environment. Ranta, on the contrary, examines the reasons behind emigration from the viewpoint of unemployed Senegalese fishers. She gives a voice to the “voiceless subalterns” and points out their lack of democratic influence in issues in what were formerly their own fishing waters. The ethnological method applied has demanded intensive commitment to the life situations of the fishers and innovativeness in interviewing. Ranta’s study highlights the importance of intercultural dialogue and necessity of fieldwork. For this positive endeavour, Ranta’s study delivers an outstanding qualification.”

KukkaRanta1_MasterArward2014_photographerTommyStandumEmeritus professor Reijo E. Heinonen and Kukka Ranta after a speech by the professor (photo: Tommy Standun).

Kukka Ranta’s earlier non-fiction book Kalavale about overfishing written with Emma Kari was partly popularized from Ranta’s academic research data. The book was awarded with Kelpoa kehitystä (Good Development) prize in 2012 by Kehys for the significant work in promoting policy coherence for development. The book can be downloaded for free. Her other publications, articles and photo reports about overfishing and immigration can be seen from her website.

More information:

Välähdyksiä Ghanasta

Maailman Kuvalehti Magazine 1/2014 | Kukka Ranta
Ghana, 2013.

Ghana, Tema. Benjamin Na, 32, on kalastanut veljiensä kanssa Teman satamassa Ghanassa 12-vuotiaasta lähtien. Öisin merellä näkyy 20-50 kiinalaisalusta valokalastamassa laittomasti. Isot troolit puskevat paikallisten  puuveneet pois ja vievät sekä kalat että apajapaikat, jopa aseilla ja vesitykillä uhaten.

Ghana, Tema. Benjamin Na, 32, has been fishing with his big brother in the Ghanaian harbor of Tema since a small boy. At night-time he can see about 20-50 chinese trawlers light fishing illegally. The big trawlers push the local artisanal fishing boats away, rob the fish and occupy the fishing waters many times by threatening the local fishermen with guns and water cannons.

Published in Maailman Kuvalehti 1/2014 Magazine.

Silenced Voices from Kazakhstan

For the past ten years Kazakhstan has been the third fastest growing economy in the world after China and Qatar – especially due its large-scale oil fields. There is a will to expand the economy, but economic growth is overshadowed by the forthcoming distribution of power.

Since 1991, the country has been led autocratically by a 72-year-old President Nursultan Nazarbayev who has gathered huge fortunes in billions of euros for his family and circle of acquaintances. Along with aging of the president the human rights situation is intensifying at extreme, while the country has no experience of democratic and legal elections.

In December 2011, at one of the main oil production areas of Kazakhstan in Zhanaozen close to Caspian Sea hundreds of civilians were shot by police, the aim was to defeat months-long workers’ strike that had slowed down oil production.

According to official data 17 were killed, but the citizens told nobody knows the exact number by hidden corpses, the figure is close to hundred. After the massacre hundreds of citizens were arrested and tortured to obtain false testimonies for the police and authority use.

At the moment practically there is no opposition parties nor independent media in Kazakhstan. Many politically involved people, human rights activists and journalists have fled the country. Read more in english.

Kukka Ranta visited in Kazakhstan during October-November 2012
after an invitation by the human rights organization Open Dialog Foundation.
For more information:

See also: Kazakhstan’s silenced voices in Finland | 15.05.2013 by the ODF:
On 11 May, the Finnish Centre for Art and Design in Fiskars held an exhibition of photographs from Kazakhstan, entitled ‘Silenced Voices’. The author, photographer and journalist, Kukka Ranta, visited Kazakhstan in autumn 2012 within the framework of the mission, organised by the Open Dialog Foundation.

Towards dreams in Ghana

Maailman Kuvalehti 2/2013

Economy is growing fast in Ghana. More and more young people are studying in a private schools or universities, many educated young women wants to have something more for themselves than just a married family life. Self-confident future actors are going to succeed in their careers. 

“Woman should be housewifes in Ghana, but is doesn’t suit for me”, says Berlinda Efua Quansah, 24. She wants to set up a fashion house. “Everyone should make her own dreams and realize them before getting married”Berlinda_Quansah3_MK_KukkaRANTA

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