Fishing in the Senegalese Waters,

Fishing in the Senegalese Waters,
  • PublishedApril 5, 2023

A maritime wealth threatened

Fishing is an essential activity for West Africa but is threatened by several elements.

Pollution and over-fishing have taken their toll on the biodiversity of Senegalese waters. The species are less numerous, the fishing resources offer less yield. This decrease leads to a drop in income and a complication of living conditions.

IUU fishing leads to the destruction of the biotope. Quotas and prohibitions are not respected. It results in the nullifying of attempts at sustainable fishing and development. Many foreign vessels come to lay their nets in areas that are forbidden to them.

A sea-oriented society

Senegalese waters are inhabited by pelagic fishes. The marine wealth of Senegal is its strength. The sub-sector of fishery was the first field of exportation in 2015. According to the ANSD, it represented approximately 80% of the income from international exports.

Traditional fishery is employed by coastal communities. It has the particularity to produce an amount of fishing, comparable to industrial fishery. In 2019, artisanal fishing represented 3,2% of the Senegal’s GDP.

In addition to the economic interest, fishing addresses to social stakes. Senegalese population gets three quarters of its animal protein from the marine ecosystem. But this balance is endangered by pollution.

Pollution : the threat of eutrophication

Pollution is one of the anthropological causes of the decrease of catches. For instance, the waste decomposes into microplastics and is then ingested by marine life. An other menace in the Senegalese waters is eutrophication.

Eutrophication is defined by NOAA as a “chain reaction in the ecosystem, starting with an overabundance of algae and plants. The excess algae and plant matter eventually decompose, producing large amounts of carbon dioxide. This lowers the pH of seawater, a process known as ocean acidification. Acidification slows the growth of fish and shellfish and can prevent shell formation in bivalve mollusks. This leads to a reduced catch for commercial and recreational fisheries, meaning smaller harvests and more expensive seafood.”

Eutrophication is caused by agricultural runoff, sewage and industrial discharges. It has been exacerbated by dams which reduce water flow to downstream regions. Eutrophication is linked to the proliferation of invasive plants and fish kills.

Eutrophication in the senegalese waters

The destruction of marine and coastal ecosystems will be caused by the future exploitation of hydrocarbons.

Pollution will accelerate the aftermath of climate change. Visible and short-term effects have more impact. Sometimes at the expense of a global vision. In the hope of quickly alleviating pollution, the measures are not effective in the long term.

In the past, fishery was sufficient to sell and consume its own catches. As early as 2000, the FAO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported on the over-exploitation of marine resources. A study conducted in 2014 by CRODT, the Oceanographic Research Center of Dakar-Thiaroye, reported an overcapacity of 51%.

Today, there is therefore an increase in fishing, associated with a decrease in resources. This leads to lower income and more difficult living conditions. The absence of an alternative sector has forced the implementation of resourceful systems, including the withdrawal of children from school.

senegalese maritime resources 2

The threat of unfair competition: IUU and intensive fishing

In order to increase the volume of catches, traditional fishermen are modernizing their fish catching techniques. But some prefer to ignore the regulations.

It is called IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fishing. IUU fishing leads to the destruction of the biotope. Quotas and prohibitions are not respected. It results in the nullifying of attempts at sustainable fishing and development.

Chinese vessels, in search of squid or pelagic fish, are regularly accused of IUU fishing. Russian trawlers, such as Oleg Naydenov or the Vasiliy Filippov, illicitly enter MPAs to carry out illegal fishing. The Vasiliy was recently spotted in the MPA of Gorée. Greenpeace Africa has expressed concern about its presence in the EEZ of several countries. The absence of transparency of the Senegalese government in the allocation of fishing licenses is pointed out. This opacity is a source of concern and tension for local fishermen.

route of the vessel Vasiliy Filippov in AMP of Gorée

The Group of Shipowners and Fishing Industry in Senegal, (GAIPES), denounced the plundering of Senegalese waters. This reaction followed the authorization of pelagic fishing granted by the Senegalese government to about 40 Russian vessels. No annual catch limit was set for them and the compensation was meager.

In return, Russia has proposed to buy a ton of fish at 35$. They were fully aware that the species involved could sell for up to $150. Therefore, the loss would be significant given that the production amounts to 1,4 millions of tons. This trade has been criticized by Saër Seck, president of the GAIPES.

In addition to the shortfall from this exchange, many have a lot to lose. Many fishermen lost their job due to the collapse of local fishing activity. They could not compete with giant factory ships. Moreover, those only unload their shipments abroad. Therefore, there are no direct benefits from their intensive fishing.

Limited and ineffective controls

IUU is facilitated by a lack of monitoring. Fishing licenses are not widespread. Boats are rarely registered and controls are infrequent. Thus, the illegal intrusion of fishermen into the MPA or EEZ is simplified. The amount of the fines remains very low. The penalties are not dissuasive and consequently ineffective

Apart from intrusion and IUU fishing, the competition against industrial foreign fishing is tough. Chinese trawlers and Turkish seiners threaten Senegalese traditional fishery. Theirs catches, bountiful, endanger resources already over-exploited.

MPAs, a co-managed solution

In an attempt to mitigate the consequences, measures are set up. The creation of MPAs Marine Protected Areas is the solution chosen by the Senegalese government. It aims to preserve the diversity of halieutical resources and marine biotopes involving the communities.

MPAs are the central element of the Senegalese actions to protect their marine wealth. A MPA is defined by the IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as “a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.”.

It is recommend that each country protect at least 5% of their national coastal and marine areas. However, Senegal protects only 1,61% of its EEZ being 205 269 ha.

Thus, under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment and the Directorate of Community Marine Protected Areas (DAMCP), but also with the assistance of the DPM, Directorate of Maritime Fisheries and the DPSD, Directorate of Fisheries Protection and Surveillance, the first MPAs were created in Senegal in 2004.

Senegalese MPAs

AFD, French Agency for Development took an active part in the establishment of MPA in the regions of Casamance and Sine-Saloum. It provided 5 million euros in funding and coordinated the project. It aims to achieve sustainable management by establishing biological rest periods. Fishing would be temporally prohibited in specific geographic areas in order to protect particular species. This marine fallow should enable for an increase in the size and quantity of the catches.

A locally managed solution

On the 18 areas protected, 11 are part of the West African Marine Protected Areas Network (RAMPAO). Their success come from the involvement of local communities in the management. MPAs are handled at local scale by local fishing committees: inter-professional economic interest groups, associations. Three main bodies manage the MPAs :

The General Assembly, which brings together the fisheries services and the deconcentrated environmental services of the State, the socio-professional organizations of the riparian villages and the local institutions.

The Executive Board, with a more operational management, includes 4 statutory members: the President, the Vice President, the Secretary General and the Treasurer.

Six technical commissions : surveillance and sustainable fishing, technical and tourist development, management of the environment and natural resources, sensitization and training and finally conflict management.

Nevertheless, MPAs face several challenges. The first is the concern for democratization of local committees. The second is the lack of respect for legal statutes. The third challenge is the improvement of administrative management. If these challenges are met, MPAs would become effective solutions.


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