In April 2012, the Senegal president, Macky Sall, boldly told foreign fishing boats to get out of Senegal’s waters–a decision that has greatly helped Senegal’s fishing communities.
For years, Senegal allowed large factory vessels from Morocco, Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, China, and Belize to fish in its waters. Like other West African countries, Senegal opened up their waters to these foreign boats because of promises that it would improve their economy. Rich countries pay poor countries millions of dollars for rights to fish in their waters [often because the rich countries have depleted the fish in their own waters].
But foreign fishing vessels hurt developing countries like Senegal.
The foreign vessels fishing in Senegal’s waters were using advanced tracking technology to catch tons of fish per day. They then shipped these fish back to their home countries or other nations. Local Senegal fishermen, who only have small fishing boats, could not compete with the large foreign vessels. And the foreign boats were depleting all of Senegal’s fish resources – some of the richest in the world.
Over time, local fishermen found it harder and harder to catch fish. The country suffered a loss of $100 million in revenue per year because of outside fishing boats. [The entire West African region is losing $1 billion a year to foreign fleets.] Local Senegal fishermen, who rely on fishing to make a living, were struggling. And Senegal communities were starving from a lack of fish to eat. Fish and rice is their most well-known dish. And fish is a very most important source of protein in Senegal.
Local Senegal fishermen began crying out, asking the government to stop allowing foreign fishing vessels access to their waters. And with the help of mobilizing campaigns from Greenpeace they were able to make their voices heard.
In April 2012, Macky Sall was elected the new president of Senegal. And he responded to the fishermen’s cries. As one of his first acts as president, he canceled the fishing licenses of all 29 foreign trawl vessels fishing in Senegal’s waters, ordering them to get out!
Since then, local Senegal fishermen have been catching more fish. And the country’s fish populations have rebounded. The Senegalese people are celebrating!
The Senegal president made a wise choice to protect Senegal’s local resources and provide for his people. He says other West Africa countries and poor countries around the world should follow this lead.
And everyone around the globe should start giving greater consideration to the fact that developing countries [like Senegal] deeply depend on healthy fish populations for their livelihoods and food. We need to incorporate this into our global fisheries policies.
To learn more about how you can help preserve the world’s fish, please visit our Fish as Food section.
Elizabeth Brown is a research scientist at Blue Ocean Institute.