Brussels and Dakar inked a new fisheries partnership last month, following a successful third round of talks in the Senegalese capital.
In return for €8.69 million over the next five years, 38 EU vessels will be granted licenses to target tuna and limited numbers of black hake in the West African state’s waters, or Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). According to Reuters, the new arrangement caps the amount of tuna that can be removed from Senegalese waters by the EU fleet at 14,000 tonnes per year, with black hake restricted to 2,000 tonnes.
On paper the collected funds are earmarked for sectoral support ranging from maritime research to fighting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
“This agreement benefits all stakeholders, including local artisanal fishermen. As one of the new generation of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements, this deal underlines Europe’s commitment to the principles of the reformed CFP whether at home or in foreign waters,” said EU Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, referring to the bloc’s new common fisheries policy (CFP) for the next seven years. (See BioRes 4 June 2013).
Brussels has come under fire, however, from some marine and environmental groups. Concerns have been raised that the process was not sufficiently inclusive, and foreign trawlers are depleting Senegal’s marine stocks, making it increasingly difficult for local fishermen to compete.
“We are selling off our resources and it amounts to a recolonisation by the EU in the fishing sector,” said Adama Lam, vice-president of Gaipes, a Senegalese fisheries representative.
Fisheries play a key financial and social role in the country’s economy. For example, the sector generates around 600,000 direct and indirect jobs and is the main provider of protein in the country, according to USAID.
Both Brussels and Dakar have sought to defend the arrangement. Dominique Dellicour, the EU’s representative in Senegal, told reporters last Thursday that the financial compensation was a good deal for the West African country.
In its press release, the EU also stressed that artisanal fisheries, which account for around 90 percent of the volume of catches, stood to gain €750 000 annually from the arrangement. The country’s shores are home to over 17,000 light canoes, known as pirogues. Over the years, this group have received a number of incentives including tax exemptions on fuel and fishing gear.
Senegalese Fisheries Minister Haidar El Ali said that the deal would harness economic benefits from the presence of EU vessels, which had continued to operate reportedly under Senegalese flags since the expiry of an arrangement with the bloc in 2006. “Where was Greenpeace when 15,000 tonnes was being fished and the state of Senegal was being paid nothing?” he said.
In response to local complaints about the presence of large foreign factory ships, the incoming Senegalese government in May 2012 cancelled licenses of 29 foreign fishing trawlers. In January of this year, Senegalese officials seized two Russian trawlers under the auspices of illicit activity, fining both 600 million CFA francs (US$1.25 million).