BY JENNIFER LAZUTA | Africa In Fact
1 JULY 2013
Large foreign trawlers are sweeping West Africa’s seabed, undermining the environment, reducing fish stock and destroying the livelihoods of artisanal fishermen.
Issa Diene, 39, is one of thousands of Senegalese fishermen who face tough times in competing with the giant commercial boats. For the last ten years, he has risen before dawn and set out in his 30-foot wooden pirogue to catch fish off the coast of Dakar, Senegal’s capital. A few hours later he would return to sell his catch at the midday fish market. But recently, poor catches have forced him to fish in the evenings as well, or else spend all day at sea.
“I used to bring in between 15,000 [African Financial Community (CFA)] francs and 20,000 CFA francs ($30 – $40) each day,” Mr Diene said. “Then the big boats started coming in and taking all our fish. Now, I am lucky if I catch 5,000 CFA francs ($10) a day.”
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is “a big problem in Senegal”, said Cheikh Sarr, director of Senegal’s Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. “Large fishing vessels often enter into our waters and scoop up all the fish. Sometimes they enter into protected zones. They don’t respect the regulations,” he said. “Our natural resources are being destroyed. The fish are disappearing. It is hurting our fishermen and ruining our economy.”
IUU fishing can range from vessels fishing with no licence at all, to licensed boats entering into foreign, domestic or international waters and then disobeying the rules. They may catch more than is allowed by law, or scoop up protected species, or fail to report their entire catch, or use illegal or environmentally unsustainable fishing gear, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
It is impossible to know just how much IUU fishing takes place, as many wrongdoers are never caught. Most experts, such as the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), a British-based campaign group, estimate that between 11m and 26m tonnes of fish are caught illegally worldwide each year. This equates to an annual loss to legal fishing operations of up to $23 billion.
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