In Senegal, artisanal fishing weakened by the arrival of Chinese trawlers

By Frédéric Bobin

Posted today at 02:32, updated at 03:24

Sitting on the edge of his brightly colored canoe stuck in the sands of Mbour, 70 km south of Dakar, Ousseman Diop looks dubious. The young man in his thirties has just returned from an outing to the open sea, a milky horizon where sea and sky merge in the winter mists. “I can no longer meet my needs”, he sighs at the paucity of his catch. In echo, a little further, another fisherman, floating in his orange jumpsuit, overwhelms himself with the “Decline” activity in recent years. “I used to fish 50 kg per day, he specifies. Today, I barely weigh 10 kg. “

The lament is nagging on these shores of Mbour at a time when the small armada of canoes is returning to dry land. A line of porters strapped in plastic, crates over their heads, submerged up to their torso, slowly progressing towards the larger boats kept at a distance from the edge because of their tonnage. They bring blocks of ice and jerry cans of gasoline before leaving loaded with fish: groupers, trevally, mackerel or sardinella.

Fishermen off Mbour, Senegal, December 16, 2021. They use prohibited nets because their mesh size is too small but the authorities do not have the resources to control the canoes.

Part of the catch is sold on site, spread out on a tarpaulin where a scale sits. The other is doomed to be loaded into refrigerated mini-trucks parked in a parking lot adjacent to the beach. The weakness of the circulation speaks of the gloom of the times. “ There are fewer fish because of the divers who dynamite the underwater rocks as well as the Chinese boats ”, slips Ousseman Diop.

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Grumbling is brewing along the Senegalese coast against industrial overfishing carried out by foreign trawlers depleting the fishery resource. Alongside European, Turkish or Russian buildings, the Chinese have proved particularly active in recent years. No fishing agreement having been signed between Dakar and Beijing, Chinese trawlers generally operate under the cover of a Senegalese figurehead enlisted in a mixed company.

Social damage

On the eve of the opening of the China-Africa Forum (Focac), which was held in Dakar on November 29 and 30, 2021, associations of professionals in the fishing industry called on the Senegalese government to defend national interests in the face of ambitions of a Chinese partner on the offensive since the diplomatic normalization between the two countries in 2005. “The arrival of Chinese companies has greatly contributed to impoverish fishing communities and has only enriched a small group of people. [via] nebulous mixed societies ”, denounced in a press release the “Coalition against fishmeal factories and bad governance of fisheries”.

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In Senegal, artisanal fishing weakened by the arrival of Chinese trawlers

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