Characters

was born in Ribeira da Barca. He migrated to Sweden when he was five, and like most Cape Verdeans living abroad, he maintains a strong relationship with the homeland. Growing up he would spend the days playing football on the wide sandy beach just down the village street. In Sweden he continued playing in local football clubs, and ended up with IFK Gothenburg, as the first ever African player in the Swedish league. Because of his career he couldn’t return to the village for ten years, and when he finally did, the beach from his childhood had disappeared. Saddened and outraged José was the first to tell us about the strong effect that the fishing industry has on places like Cape Verde. His story led us to witness a strikingly graphic example of environmental degradation, one that the whole world should see.
Ja gathers and sells sand from the beach of Charco, next to Ribeira da Barca. She started when she was only nine years old to help her family and now she has a daughter of twelve. Her husband left her, so she has to take sand from the beach to feed herself and the daughter. When she begun, there were dunes of sand stretching up the mountain. Now they must scrape it from the bottom of the sea, then transport it towards the beach through crushing waves. The sand has disappeared, only stones remain on the beach. “It is a hard job and I know that we are causing harm to the environment, but it is our only option.” Nelson is a fisherman from Ribeira da Barca; he has a wife and two kids to feed. Because of family problems when he was thirteen, he left school and started a life of fishing. Back then there was an abundance of fish and it seamed like a safe career choice. Now, he doesn’t even go out at sea every day because there is no point during some periods of the year - he and his crew would end up spending more than what they would make. “Trying to survive on fishing alone is a daily struggle.”
 Rui M. Freitas is a professor of the Marine Sciences Department of UniCV and has focused his research on Cape Verdean biodiversity and fish fauna. During his work he contributed to several studies evaluating the environment and marine resources of coastal areas in the archipelago. Rui is our leading expert on fisheries in Cape Verde. He is based in Mindelo, on the island of Sao Vicente, the main port of the country. He showed and introduced us to the shark issues and explained how things are changing by bringing us to the local fish market. Rui has strong opinions on what doesn’t work, about who is ruining his country, as well as the complex political and economical influences behind it.Tata is the aunt of Zé and Nelson. She is 84 years old and still vividly remembers the old times when Ribeira da Barca used to have a sand beach, plenty of fish and a fresh water well in front of the house. “You can’t compare the situation now with what it was before. There was so much fish that we had to work drying and salting it from early morning to late at night to ensure that we didn’t have to throw away the surplus! People had less comfort, but at least they could get plenty of food from the sea, and they lived on a beautiful sandy beach.” 
Antonio is a fisherman from the island of Fogo and now a resident of Ribeira da Barca. He works as a diver doing maintenance of the governmental Fish Aggregation Device program near the village. As fisherman he works solo with his spear gun which is a little more yielding than going out with the little wooden boats. Every night he goes to sea with Nelson on the Oceano Atlantico, one of the village’s bigger vessels. Antonio is our character for underwater sequences and through him we explore the depths of the sea around Ribeira da Barca and the connection between the presence of sharks and small pelagics in the area.Ima has a plot of land just behind the  ruined beach. When we spoke with him he was angry at the people that are taking all the sand. He is desperate because he knows they will not stop and his activity is every day more at risk. ”Since they started this the waves have been crashing into my land, the plants I grow are dying because of the salt and every day the earth produces less”.

Raoul Monsembula is oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, currently based in Dakar, Senegal. Raoul holds two masters degrees in Ichthyology and Forest Environmental Management and held a junior teaching position in University of Kinshasa. As the Greenpeace Africa oceans campaigner his work is focused on fighting overfishing in Africa’s water. In the long-term he works on developing viable alternatives to unsustainable and inequitable  industrial fishing operations currently plundering Africa's shores, decimating marine biodiversity and local livelihoods. Zé met him on a Greenpeace vessel roaming West African waters and discussed the common problems of the wider area.

José Melo, is 51 years old fisheries engineer and president of the NGO Biosfera I. Tommy Melo, 31, is a Biologist and Oceanographer, and vice president of the NGO. Both are in charge of the design, implementation and project management. The father and son have together embraced a struggle for preservation of the environment in their country, Cape Verde, having already achieved an honorable mention by the Government and an International Award for services rendered on behalf of the environment. José and Tommy are the first to independently investigate unregulated shark fishing in Cape Verde and have given the production extensive material and a brilliant interview on the topic.