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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Senegal fights to protect fishing industry
Fishing boats at sea in Senegal
Fishermen now have to travel further to catch fish

The West African country of Senegal has said it wants to charge the European Union (EU) for fishing in its waters.

The minister responsible for the sector said the government was looking to charge the EU 20m euros ($18m; 13m) each year.

Since the beginning of this year the West African country has banned vessels from the EU from fishing in its waters after over-fishing led to a crisis for the local industry.

Talks between Dakar and Brussels have yet to produce an agreement on how commercial fishing should continue.

Dramatic problems

In a tuna factory in Dakar, Senegal, about 500 workers process tuna fish which comes in straight from lorries which have picked up the fish from the port.

Tuna fish caught off the coast of Senegal
Tins of tuna are exported to European markets

The fish is washed down, boiled and then workers take out the bones and the red meat and clean up the fish ready to be put in tin cans.

The cans are then exported to European markets.

The man in charge of the factory, Faycal Sharara, said the sector was facing dramatic problems mainly because of a fall in production in all similar factories.

"Mainly the problem is we are facing over-fishing, we are facing a lot of decreasing quantity fish even by the industrial vessels and the small vessels, the small fishermen," he said.

Higher prices

Mr Sharara said fishermen used to travel just 2km or 3km off the coast of Dakar to catch fish, now they travel at least 12km, maybe even 20km, to have any chance of catching fish.

As a result of the shortage fish prices have gone up, but that does not please the fishermen.

"No money, no fish, you know the job is very difficult but there are many many people who want to buy fish here now," said one fisherman.

Another pointed to the wider impact on the country's economy, "the price is very high, but even if the price is higher they will not have a good result because the country is very, very low."

Responsibility?

The government of Senegal has responded to the problems of over-fishing by banning all EU vessels from fishing in Senegalese waters.

The minister responsible for the fishing sector, Cheikh Saadibou, said the government wanted to start charging the EU to fish in its waters.

"We think that now there is no fish in the sea and Senegal has to settle up politics which take care of that situation," he said.

"We think that the European Union has to help Senegal to settle up the responsible politics of preserving particularly short resources," he added.

The minister said the ban on shipping vessels from Europe would stay in place until an agreement is reached with Brussels.

Senegal is a relatively successful country compared to some of its neighbours in West Africa, but unless some agreement is reached on fishing rights what was once a thriving sector could be threatened with a painful and costly demise.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Struan Stevenson, EU Parliament Fisheries Committee
"If we allow over-exploitation of these resources you can end up with people actually starving"
Gregor Kreuzhuber, EU fisheries spokesman
"Only a small fraction of the fish fished in Senegalese waters was fished under the old agreement by EU vessels"
The BBC's James Whittington
"What was once a thriving sector is threatened with a painful and costly demise
See also:

01 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
02 Jan 02 | Business
01 Aug 01 | Africa
25 Feb 02 | Country profiles
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