Senegal to Target Illegal Fishing That Costs 2% of Economy

Senegal will submit a new code that includes higher fines for illegal fishing by June.

The government will be able to impose penalties that are larger than the record $1.2 million levied on a Russian boat last year, Minister of Fisheries Oumar Gueye said in an interview on March 25. The current guidelines were passed in 1998. Gueye declined to provide a specific amount for the proposed fines.

“Illegal fishing attacks our resources,” Gueye said in his office of Dakar, Senegal’s capital. “Illegal fishing will be severely sanctionned in an unprecented way.”

Senegal loses about 2 percent of gross domestic product because of unlicensed fishing, mostly by international ships, off its coast in the Atlantic Ocean. The waters in the area, which include Morocco and Mauritania, are rich in sardines and mackerel.

About 60 percent of the 450,000 metric tons annually caught is consumed locally, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. The rest is exported, mostly to Europe. More than 600,000 people work as fishermen or in related industries, Gueye said. Senegal has about 14 million people and a gross domestic product of $14 billion.

In January last year, Senegal detained the Oleg Naydenov, a Russian ship that was fishing illegally in the country’s southern waters near Guinea Bissau. The boat’s owners were fined $1.2 million. Illicit fishing costs the nation 150 billion CFA francs ($247 million) a year, Gueye said.

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The code will also designate more money for boats and officers to conduct surveillance off the coast, Gueye said. Senegal will target overfishing by boosting the minimum length of fish that can be caught, he said.

Senegal and the European Union signed last year a 5-year agreement allowing 38 European vessels to catch 14,000 tons of tuna and 2,000 tons of hake.

Artisanal fishing accounts for 85 percent of landings at Senegal’s ports, Gueye said. There are as many as 21,000 pirogues, mostly made of wood, he said.

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