In 2012, Al Jazeera set out on an investigative project in which journalist Juliana Ruhfus began probing illegal pirate fishing off the coast of Sierra Leone. The resulting two-part series, called “Pirate Fishing”, was part of the People & Power series, and set out to show that not only were illegal fishing practices taking place, but also expose the negative effects that were in turn affecting the general population of Sierra Leone. Being a coastal nation, fish often serve as one of the few proteins available for consumption, but with so many illegal fishermen taking what is available in the waters, little is left for the general population.
Even now, nearly two years later, the same illegal activities are occurring, and continuing to burden Sierra Leone’s people and fishing economy. To help spread awareness, Al Jazeera is again broadcasting the original series. They have also launched an online interactive game that illustrates the issues being created by ongoing pirate fishing, and encourages the player to learn more and help investigate the situation.
When you begin the game, you get a message reading:
“Can you join an investigation into the multimillion-dollar illegal fishing trade? If you and the team can manage to track down one of the ‘pirate trawlers’ that operate illegally in Sierra Leone’s waters, I [and editor] will run the story …”
After accepting the assignment, a set of instructions appear, and you begin to play the role of a junior researcher. Video clips from the original series are shown to help gather information. By collecting evidence, making notes, and understand the background and context, you help investigate the ongoing illegal activities. It’s set up similarly to a “choose your own adventure” game. It is aimed at younger audiences and more tech-savvy journalists who would rather play through a game than read or watch feature-length investigative pieces.
To play the interactive Pirate Fishing game online, check it out here.
For information on the series, what was discovered, and the outcomes for those arrested and charged, click here.