West African Marine Ecoregion: the local voice

Bacar Fall, fisherman

Bacar Fall, age 58, fisherman by trade from a very young age. Member of the National Federation of ... / ©: WWF
Bacar Fall, age 58, fisherman by trade from a very young age. Member of the National Federation of Fishing Industry Economic Interest Groups (FENAGIE pêche) of Senegal, West Africa
© WWF
I come from a fishing family, and for the last three years I've been involved in organizing the fishermen in the port of Hann on the outskirts of Dakar. I'm a founder member of the National Federation of Fishing Industry Economic Interest Groups (FENAGIE). The idea was suggested to us by the government, but the Federation is run by the fishermen themselves. Originally we set up the FENAGIE along the same lines as cooperatives. That didn't work, so then we tried to do it in terms of economic interest groups, and that works."

Advice to the president of the EU
"If I have an opportunity to talk to the president of the European Union, I will tell him that if it was left up to us, the small-scale fishermen, there would be no more agreements, because the know-how exists at the local level, and our catches are sustainable. What's the point of signing agreements when our government is not in a position to check up on the vessels that are fishing in our waters?"

Out at sea, there is no supervision: it's uncontrolled exploitation
"The surveillance is ineffective. As a result, fish are becoming scarcer and scarcer, and thus very expensive on the market." There is ongoing skulduggery in the issuing of licences. "Plenty of vessels have no national inspectors on board, and if they have, they are corrupt. They won't denounce anything." To cope with this, "we had tried to organize ourselves to put an inspector, a member of our organization, on board each vessel covered by the fishing agreements. But it didn't work because of our lack of financial means."

Ndeye Diop, Fishmonger

"I'm 35 years old. I'm married to a fisherman. I've been selling fish since 1992. Our household makes a living from this activity."

Fish are getting scarce
"A few years ago, there was plenty of fish landed here. Nowadays, as you can see, there are only immature ones or nothing at all. Our income has fallen too. That's due to the huge numbers of small-scale and industrial fishermen, on the one hand, and to uncontrolled fishing, on the other hand. Before, my husband used to go fishing every morning and came back early in the afternoon. Now he sometimes passes two nights at sea. Because he has to go very far to find fish."

What do you think of the fishing agreements between the EU and Senegal?
"When it comes to the fishing agreements, that's the government's business. We fishmongers, what we're interested in is always having fish to sell. But if it has to be brought elsewhere, there's nothing in it for us."

Amadou Wade, Coordinator for FENAGIE

Amadou Wade, age 45, Coordinator, National Federation of Fishing Industry Economic Interest Groups ... / ©: WWF
Amadou Wade, age 45, Coordinator, National Federation of Fishing Industry Economic Interest Groups (FENAGIE) of Senegal
© WWF
For the FENAGIE and its members, are there advantages deriving from the fishing agreements with the European Union?
"We still don’t see what advantages there might be for us from the Agreements signed in June 2002 between the Senegalese government and the European Union. However, we are not totally opposed to them in principle; but they will have to take into account the principle of rational management of fishery resources, ensuring that when signing agreements with a country or an organisation, action is taken to preserve fishery resources.

"In the specific case of the June 2002 Agreements, we (the FENAGIE) had taken part in eight rounds of negotiations, and no one informed us of the ninth and last. So we are not directly concerned. We are in no way involved in this agreement, because we were presented with a fait accompli. That’s regrettable. We are still waiting for the state to tell us the content of the texts."

If you were able to speak directly to the President of the European Union, what would you say to him?
"If we found ourselves face to face with the president of the European Union, we would have told him that we would sign nothing. It's true that the EU is a partner that only discusses with states, but it is we (the small-scale fishermen) who contribute 75 to 80% of the fish destined for export. In the long term this situation could pose problems; we are not against signing, but we insist that conservation measures be considered.

In the draft agreement there are passages that approach that, but none of that was presented to us for discussion. In the discussions that we took part in, there was the idea of establishing a partnership approach that would undertake targeted initiatives with a view to rational management of fishery resources. But until now we have no information on this subject. We are still waiting."

Do you think you have lost out with the signing of the agreements?
"We are constantly losing out, because our resources have considerably diminished and foreigners are coming to take a share of what we have left; it's an enormous loss. We are finding it harder and harder to find fish, and our incomes are suffering. Excessive fishing, the deterioration of the environment, and major pollution are all factors that force us to stay in port, and that is worrying us."

"Whatever people say, the European vessels show far more respect for the regulations of the fisheries code than the Asiatic vessels flying the Senegalese flag. Most of the accidents at sea are caused by Asiatic ships which drop anchor in zones where trawling is forbidden."

Yerim Thioub, Director General of the Fishery Protection and Surveillance Department

Yerim Tchoub, age 45, Director General of the Fishery Protection and Supervision Department, Senegal / ©: WWF
Yerim Tchoub, age 45, Director General of the Fishery Protection and Supervision Department, Senegal
© WWF
"My department is responsible for policing sea and river fisheries. Supervision is organised via maritime inspectors who carry out inspections on vessels in port and take part in missions at sea and using aeroplanes, supervising fishing operations. We are assisted by the National Navy and by a certain number of supervisory units, as well as by French forces based on the Cape Verde Islands. The support we receive from these forces is particularly valuable since the breakdown of our surveillance plane in June 2002."

Do you see advantages related to the agreements?
"There are some financial benefits for the state, income that helps to carry out certain investments in the fishing sector and elsewhere. There is a further benefit in the input into the country's economic system through port operations of all kinds (calls for supplies, ship chandling, etc.) These activities help support overall socio-economic activity in Senegal. The port is the country's economic lung, handling 95% of our international traffic. The other advantage of the agreements is the improvement in the know-how of the fishermen and the Senegalese inspectors on foreign vessels."

Are there disadvantages in the fishery agreements between the European Union and Senegal?
"Essentially, the drawbacks involve the dumping at sea of huge quantities of species that have no commercial value on the European market. There will have to be regulations for that. We believe, moreover, that our population needs those dumped fish. Each Senegalese needs 0.75g of fish protein per day, which comes to about 27kg of fish per year, for those Senegalese living in the coastal zones."

"Another drawback of the Agreement is that we have no observers in certain EU vessels, such as refrigerated vessels of less than 150 GRT and deep-freeze vessels of less than 60 GRT. Those vessels can do anything they want at sea, without us knowing about it. So you can see that, in this case, dumping is on a much larger scale than shown in our official figures. On this issue, we would have liked to see the Agreements take into account this concern, by providing for observers to board the vessels I've just referred to."

El Ali Haidar, Director of the Océanium NGO in Dakar, Senegal

El Ali Haidar, Director of the Océanium NGO in Dakar, Senegal / ©: WWF
El Ali Haidar, Director of the Océanium NGO in Dakar, Senegal
© WWF
"I run an association of volunteers for the protection of the marine environment. The association was set up in 1984, with as its main purposes knowledge of and protection of marine fauna and flora."

What is your opinion of the fishing agreements between Senegal and the EU?
"For the Senegalese fishermen, the fishing agreements offer no advantages. Absolutely none, I stress, absolutely none. Maybe the EU is going to give something in return financially, which, as a general rule, is pocketed by our governments. There is nothing for the fishermen or for the population."

Catching immature specimens: a serious threat to resources
"Not all the effects of the fishing agreements are negative, but there are reasons to fear the disappearance of species: several are already on their way to disappearing. This year, for example, the fishermen have not seen any drum yet, and groupers are becoming rare.

These are clear signs! Permission is being given for fishing for, and exportation of, immature white groupers, which is usually forbidden by law. The Senegalese government gives you a fishing licence, while knowing that you can do nothing with it. There are no fish any longer that exceed these sizes (adults). Go to the Kermel market. You'll buy spiny lobster there that are no bigger than 10 cm. Another example is fishing with the mono-filament net: it's forbidden by law, but it is being used everywhere."

If you were able to speak directly to the President of the European Union, what would you say to him?
"If I was face to face with the president of the European Union, I would ask him to stop for a minute, to turn around, and to look behind him. What would he see? He would see highly developed societies that have developed extremely destructive fishing methods, which have pillaged the resources of their own countries, because they fish a lot with very effective means.

So today they don't catch anything anymore at home, and they want to bring those techniques to our seas. So I say, what has happened at home is going to happen here with us. You shouldn't make the same mistake twice, you can't do that!"

"Of course, I'm not saying that it is only the industrial vessels that are to blame. No. It happens at the very top. In any case, it's there that secret agreements are signed, it's there that fictional companies are set up, straw men. Chinese and Taiwanese boats are allowed, everyone is allowed to come and fish, so long as money changes hands.

That's what is dangerous. I would tell him to put a stop to all that, because it is they, the people who provide the funds, who can talk at that level, and not us. We (the NGOs and associations), all we can do is gesticulate, and it stops there."

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