Large fishing vessels from different countries capture hundreds tonnes of fish in Senegalese waters every day. (Photo: Pierre Gleizes/Greenpeace)
Govt cancels licences of foreign fishing trawlers
Friday, May 04, 2012, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
Senegal’s new government has revoked the licences of 29 foreign fishing trawlers and demanded that they land their catches in the capital Dakar before leaving the country's waters.
Fisheries Minister Pape Diouf’s move follows intensifying resentment at overfishing and alleged corruption of the previous government's licencing scheme. The decision is expected to soothe threats made by 52,000 domestic, small-scale inshore fishers to take direct action against the foreign trawlers’ owners.
In 2006, Senegal cancelled its licencing agreements with the highly subsidised European Union (EU) fleet to try to protect its industry. Yet, dozens of 10,000-tonne factory ships registered in Russia, Lithuania, Morocco, Ukraine, Mauritius, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, China, Belize and elsewhere acquired new licences; through satellite technology and often collaborating, they have been able to catch hundreds of tonnes of fish daily.
Conversely, local fishers can catch only a few tonnes of fish a year from waters near the shore with their small 30-ft "pirogues." But these fishers are forced to venture further and further out to sea because of the extensive drop in the amount of fish available, The Guardian reports.
While hunger prevails in Senegal, but much of the catch by the foreign fleets winds up in Britain and the EU.
Greenpeace lauded Senegal’s move. The green group has called for the cancellation of the licences for the last 18 months.
“These kinds of licences are a direct threat to employment and food security for millions of Senegalese who have been dependent on fishing for centuries,” Raoul Monsembula, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace.
Local fishing industry leaders in Senegal, Cape Verde, Mauritania and elsewhere note that catches from inshore fishing have been decimated in the past decade because of overfishing. Further, many other "pirate" trawlers operate illegally in west African waters, exacerbating the problem
Senegal's move to cancel the licences is considered significant because the EU is under pressure at the moment to ditch subsidies for fishing fleets operating in the waters of developing countries.
"This decision is a good start to managing Senegal's fishing better. Hopefully, the government will decree a moratorium on the allocation of new fishing authorisations," said Monsembula.
Greenpeace is urging the government of Senegal to declare an emergency moratorium on the allocation of fishing licences, as a sustainable policy has not yet been defined.
By Natalia Real