• Thursday, October 2, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: Fisheries Need Transparent Regulation

    By Isolda Agazzi
    DAKAR, Feb 11 (IPS) Senegalese fishers participating in the 2011 World
    Social Forum (WSF) warned
    governments to "wake up to the ethical and transparent regulation of
    access to
    fisheries" to halt the overexploitation of this increasingly scarce
    resource.

    Charles Bakundakwita, executive secretary of the West African Association
    for
    the Development of Artisan Fishing (known by its French acronym ADEPA),
    told IPS at the WSF that, "we ask African states and the European
    Union to
    consider this danger and limit the depletion of fish stocks, both by large
    and
    small fishers".

    Fishing officially supplies work to 600,000 people in Senegal, or 17
    percent
    of the active working population. 400,000 tons are caught every year,
    contributing 2,3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 30 percent of
    exports. But the scarcity of fish is a major problem. During the
    "soudure" -
    the rainy season when there is no fish – people fall into debt.

    Since 2007, Senegal has not renewed the fishing agreements with the
    European Union (EU) that gave large European trawlers access to its
    national
    waters. The National Federation of Fishers Associations (known by its
    French
    acronym FENAGIE) has been key in the opposition to these fishing licences.

    The licences meant insufficient financial compensation that did not
    benefit
    communities.

    "Senegal received between 21 and 23 million dollars per year from
    these
    fishing agreements," Papa Gora Ndiaye, executive secretary of the
    fishing
    division of Enda Tiers Monde, known by its French acronym REPAO, told IPS
    in
    an interview. Enda Tiers Monde is an international non-governmental
    organisation based in Dakar, working on development issues.

    "But, compared to the export earnings of 165 to 207 million dollars,
    the
    financial compensation of the fishing agreements was ridiculous, if not
    more
    so considering the potential benefits of equitable trade. If market access
    to
    the EU was improved, Senegal could earn much more."

    Even though Senegal, like all other least developed countries, can export
    duty-free and quota-free to the EU under the Everything but Arms
    initiative,
    other technical barriers to trade such as rules of origin and sanitary and
    phyto-sanitary measures make it hard for local fish to reach the European
    market.

    The fishing agreements with the EU largely contributed to the depletion of
    resources, though FENAGIE recognises that the bad practices of Senegalese
    fishers are to blame too.

    Even though the licences have been suspended, fishers fear the existence
    of
    secret agreements with other foreign ship owners.

    "Our main recommendation is to have transparent and ethical
    governance of
    fishing resources in West Africa," urged Ndiaye. "The WSF
    provides
    momentum for mobilisation and awareness-raising of stakeholders. It is a
    window of opportunity for us."

    Bakundakwita added that, "while fishing was a prosperous activity
    some years
    ago, small fishers are now getting poorer and poorer. Artisan fishing has
    deteriorated. There are too many fishers: foreign trawlers, but also local
    industrial and artisan fishers".

    He explained that artisan fishermen do not only fish for their own
    consumption anymore but to sell their product on the local market. The
    best
    catch goes to foreign, more lucrative markets. The depletion of stocks
    makes
    fish more and more expensive and many people cannot afford to buy it any
    more.

    This decrease in the availability of fish hits mainly women, who process
    and
    dry the fish. "If there is no more fish, they will be jobless and it
    will be a
    catastrophe," Bakundakwita believes.

    The authorities are afraid to regulate, according to him. "Fishing
    licences
    bring money in. To limit the access of small fishers to the sea there need
    to
    be alternative activities for them, and there is none."

    Ndiaye also expressed concern about the economic partnership agreements
    (EPAs) currently being negotiated with the EU. The African market will be
    open
    to European products, like tuna that will come in at a lower cost than the
    local
    tuna.

    "But even before the EPAs are adopted, there has been progressive
    erosion of
    commercial preferences. Senegalese tuna is hardly competitive on the
    European market when compared to Asian tuna that is grown in aquaculture
    with huge government support."

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