A Senegalese fishing association has been fighting a campaign to block the licensing of fifty-three foreign trawlers, most of which are Chinese-owned, that would allow them to fish within Senegal’s exclusive economic zone. The campaign is led by GAIPES, the Senegalese Association of Fishing Companies and Ship Owners, whose head, Alassane Dieng, argues that these foreign trawlers pose a threat to the local fishing economy.
Foreign trawlers are responsible for large-scale illegal fishing operations.
Unfortunately, this is hardly a new issue. Massive trawlers that can catch much more fish in a day than artisanal fishermen can haul in a year have depleted fish stocks off the Senegalese coast. In a country where one in five people depend on the fishing industry to support themselves, the presence of these mega-trawlers poses a grave economic threat to some of Senegal’s poorest citizens. Foreign trawlers are also responsible for large-scale illegal fishing operations, costing Senegal more than US$270 million in lost revenue every year.
Though these vessels hail from Europe and Russia as well, as of late China has become an increasing presence in African fishing waters, threatening to undermine China’s diplomatic and infrastructure investments in the region. Recently, however, the government of China has begun to punish vessels engaging in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, revoking distant-water fishing licenses, cancelling subsidies, and blacklisting certain captains and company owners caught violating fishing regulations.