Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

Senegal's fishermen fight crisis

By Egon Cossou
BBC Africa Business Report, Senegal

fishermen in kayar senegal
Fishermen in Kayar are worried about their future

Wherever you go in Senegal, fish is always on the menu.

But not only is it an important part of the diet here - it's a crucial way of people making a living.

In the small town of Kayar, 60km from the capital, Dakar, fishing is what people know best.

It's a family thing: fishing has sustained generations of townspeople.

But the very industry that has kept the town afloat for countless years is in danger of sinking.

Catches are dramatically down.

Many fingers here are being pointed at the big, sophisticated foreign boats which are allowed to fish in Senegalese waters.

The government says it has taken steps to address these concerns and has cut down the number of European boats permitted to a mere handful.

But that reassurance cuts little ice here.

Fish shortage

Abdoul Aziz Dieng has fished all his adult life. Now, though, things look grim.

"There is a real shortage of fish," he says.

"All our revenues come from fish. If there is a shortage, it affects all areas of everyday life. Things are very hard and I don't have enough money to look after my family."

It's not just the men who haul the fish out of the sea who are hurting. The women who dry and smoke the fish are also suffering.

Codou Diop represents them. She says there has been a real reduction in activity because of the shortage of fish.

Not so long ago, they used to sell hundreds of boxes of fish, but now they only sell a few.

That has reduced the income for the entire town, so people have less money to spend on dried fish.

Infrastructure problems

But the industry has more than just foreign ships to worry about. Despite the shortage of fish, it has an increasing abundance of fishermen.

People have flocked to towns such as Kayar to escape hard times in other sectors, like agriculture.

And then there is the poor infrastructure. Many people cannot afford the refrigeration or transport necessary to sell their fish in more lucrative urban markets.

So, paradoxically, some fishermen are actually having to throw fish away - at a time when they are struggling to catch them in the first place.

Self-help

Hard times mean hard measures are required. So the industry is busy reorganising itself.

This includes putting weekly limits on the number of times people can set out to sea.

Fishermen in Kayar, Senegal
Abdoulaye Diop says the fishing industry must organise itself

Abdoulaye Diop represents fishermen throughout the country and says the industry is acting to save itself.

"We have decided to manage the resources and organise ourselves," he says.

So they have introduced a fishing rota. People can only fish a few days a week.

Abdoulaye Diop says they do not want to waste resources and that it is the industry's responsibility to manage what they get from the sea.

So there are also self-imposed limits on the age and size of fish which may be caught.

The industry hopes these measures will help see them through turbulent times.

The future of the next generation could ride on their success.

Africa Business Report is a monthly programme on BBC World News. The next programme will be on Saturday, 20 March, at 0330 GMT and 1830 GMT, and on Sunday, 21 March, at 1130 GMT as well as 1830 GMT.




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