Senegal cancels foreign fishing deals

Encouraging news emerged last week for West African fisheries as the new government of Senegal announced it has cancelled all deals with foreign fishing companies. All foreign-owned trawlers are to unload their final catch and leave for good.

Artisanal fisherman sets nets in Senegal. Billo Heinzpeter Studer, Photobank














The problem of industrial trawling along the West African coast has been getting more attention in the news lately (e.g. check out John Vidal’s coverage for the Guardian). The stats are truly horrifying: a single foreign-owned trawler can take in one day the amount of fish caught by 50 artisanal fishermen in one year.

What’s worrying is not just the impact on fish stocks, but also the physical impact of trawlers on artisanal fishing gear.

All along the coast, fishermen have been telling me how the large trawlers will switch off their lights at night and sneak into near shore areas – areas they are not licensed to operate in, but they know this is where large numbers of fish can be caught. They turn their lights off so they can’t be identified and reported. And as the trawlers come inshore, they damage and tear away the local fishermen’s nets: costly gear that’s not easy to replace.

Senegal’s decision has to be good news. True, they cancelled licences back in 2006 then promptly reissued them, but hopefully this time will be different. And perhaps – just perhaps – Senegal will set an example for the rest of the region.

Back at the start of the year, as I was planning my trip to West Africa, the troubles brewing over the Senegalese election had me worried that I wouldn’t be able to visit the country at all. Early signs were that the incumbent president did not want to leave, as he changed the constitution so he could stand for a third term, and riots ensued. But as it turns out, the elections were fair and the outcome – so far – has been a good one.

Today I’m on my way to Senegal and I’m excited to see what I find there for myself.





3 responses to “Senegal cancels foreign fishing deals”

  1. Finally, what a decision! I lived in Senegal (Popenguine and M’boro) and saw what kind of “Dorade” the locals are taking out…small baby-fishes, the big ones did become rare! They know that they shouldn’t take out those small fishes and let them grow..but what would you do when there is no other food and no other work? at least the fish was delicious and I hope that this is another good sign for a better future of our oceans and all our planet!
    Don’t litter
    Stay COUP, Stay Clean

  2. Helen, can you bring me home a little white hat like that? 🙂

  3. The foreign trawlers sure are very harmful for Senegal’s fish stocks. You should however not neglect the fact that 70 percent of Senegal’s fish exports have been caught by pirogues. Overfishing is not only a result of ugly Asian and European fishing companies but also of an inadequate policy by the Senegalese government that has been in vigour since independence in 1960. The number of pirogues has doubled in the last 20 years mainly because fish has become more and more the only export product – and because more and more farmers have left their drying up land (result of a catastrophic agropolicy) in the hope of making their fortune with fishing…

    Of course it was great when Senegal denied renewal of fishing contract with EU in 2006 under massive pressure from fishermen’s association (but what followed by bilateral contracts with some European, Russion and Asian countries had even worse effects), and of course it is good news that the 29 fishing licences have been cancelled now. But the real battle is still ahead and has to be won by the civil society together with the new governement recently elected, and I’m sure you will come to the same result of your trip to the country I love so much.

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