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Ousmane Ndiaye
Direction des Pêches Maritime
Dakar, Senegal


Fish plays an essential role in the Senegalese population food security. The average per capita fish consumption is 26 kg per year all over the country. The contribution of fish in the consumption of animal proteins is estimated at 75 percent. International fish trade is a heavy threat to the Senegalese population’s food security. Three groups of factors are at the origin of this tension on the food security: exports aids (free point and free regime exporting company status, fishery products exports subsidies, devaluation, macro economic policy, Lome convention), fisheries agreements and artisanal fishery support policy. Globally, export support measures have produced unfavorable environmental and socio-economic effects. They have caused important fishing effort shifts to coastal demersal species, contributing therefore to these resources’ overexploitation. In the meantime, such fishing effort shifts have reduced the supply of fish to the local market. Fisheries agreements directly contribute to coastal demersal resources overexploitation and indirectly lead to the implementation of cooperating strategies between local and foreign fishermen, deviating therefore a part of the national effort from the satisfaction of local needs. Objectives of support policies dedicated to the artisanal fishery and food security have very often been obscured by the attraction that exports cause and consequently fishing effort shifts to species supplying the exports industry. It is necessary to implement a proper food security strengthening strategy, through: 1) A revision of support policies to support activities, which contribute to food security strengthening; 2) Strengthening of the artisanal fisheries development because of their importance on the local market; 3) Increasing fish supply to the local market by valorizing discards and reducing post harvest losses; 4) Promotion of sustainable fisheries management and sub-regional and international cooperation in the area of food security.


The fisheries sector plays a prime role in the Senegalese economy and society, in particular in the area of exports and the satisfaction of food needs and employment. Catches landed, estimated at 50 000 metric tonnes in 1965, have attained 390 000 metric tonnes in 2000 (Annex 1). Exports (all types of products and destinations), were in average estimated at 105 600 metric tonnes annually in the period 1990-2000. In 1999, 124 338 metric tonnes (Annex 2) were exported for a commercial value estimated at FCFA 185.5 billions. In terms of employment, the sector mobilized directly and indirectly around 600 000 people.

Fishery products, in particular fish, contribute to a large extent to Senegalese diets, hence contributing to attenuate the nutritional deficit in terms of animal proteins through the artisanal fisheries. During the period 1990 and 2000, the artisanal fisheries averaged more than 78 percent of total landings. Due to the decline of the agriculture and livestock sectors, which are the traditional suppliers of animal proteins, the fisheries sector has become an essential contributor to the country’s food security. The average fish consumption is estimated at 26 kg per capita annually. The contribution of fish in the consumption of animal proteins is estimated at 75 percent. The relation meat-fish is estimated at 22.5 percent.

Fish exports are an important advantage for Senegal in that they significantly contribute to generate foreign income and improve balance of trade. Nevertheless, international fish trade threatens the Senegalese population’s food security. Three groups of factors are at the origin of this tension: exports aids (free point and free regime exporting company status, fishery products exports subsidies, devaluation macro economic policy, Lome Convention), fisheries agreements and artisanal fishery support policy.


The decline of traditional exports (phosphates, peanuts) has put the fisheries sector ahead with regard to the policy of generating foreign exchange. The promotion of fishery products exports became therefore a constant objective of support policies.

2.1 Free Point and Free Regime Exporting Company Status

The free point and free regime company status, offer a wide range of advantages in customs and taxation terms (payment of taxes at a reduced rate of 15 percent instead of 30 percent, no taxation on equipment imports and repatriation of profits) to companies exporting most of their production. Such advantages have encouraged the establishment of fishery products processing companies aiming at profits from the increasing demand for these products, in particular in developed countries. The direct consequence is the overcapacity development at the level of the processing industry, which causes a strong pressure on demersal stocks through the demand for exportable products. This situation has negative effects on the supply of fish to local markets.

2.2 Export Grants

Export grants were not originally dedicated to the fisheries sector. They were introduced in 1980 to revive agriculture products exports initially established at 10 percent of the FOB value, the grant went up to 15 percent in 1983 and included the tuna exports. At the end of the second reform in August 1986, grants reached 25 percent and applied to all fish exports. The grant was abolished following the CFA franc devaluation, which compensated for the abolition of this measure. The exports grants also favored overcapacity in the processing industry causing serious risks for species destined to exports, and had similar negative effects for the supply of fish to the local market.

2.3 Devaluation and Lome Commercial Advantages

The devaluation was suggested by funding institutions to respond to the need for overcoming distortions which affected the rate of exchange of the CFA franc. The overvaluation of the rate of exchange represents an exports tax and an imports grant. The devaluation has the consequence to revive exports and may lead to the intensification of the fishing effort on species destined to exports. The Lome Convention allows products from ACP countries to enter the European market free of duty. This implies a significant comparative advantage that can reach 25 percent in the case of processed products. Given that the European demand essentially concerns high value species, commercial advantages established by the Lome Convention have probably contributed to accentuate the pressure on fisheries, notably the exploitation of demersal stocks, crustaceans and cephalopods. Nevertheless, the World Trade Organization (WTO), realizing that provisions of the Lome Convention governing the relationships between ACP countries and the European community are among developing countries (example: Asian countries are subject to the duty tax of 25 percent with regard to tuna exports to European countries), admitted that these provisions must disappear at some point in the future. According to the WTO, countries at the same level of development must be treated equally.

Limited storage capacities of fishing vessels and some less selective fishing techniques (shrimp fishing vessels in particular) encourage important discards of by-catch. For the period October 1992 and October 1994, the PSPS (fisheries surveillance project) estimated catch discards by targeting fish vessels at 2 687 metric tonnes; discards by vessels targeting hakes and shrimp were estimated at 1 680 metric tonnes and 6 450 metric tonnes, respectively. The commercial value of these discards is estimated at FCFA 2 billions.


At the end of the 1970s, certain states were facing overcapacity problems that led them to redeploy their fleets to other waters. Such a situation favored the conclusion of fisheries agreements between coastal states and distant water fishing nations. In agreements concluded between powerful fishing nations and developing countries, the focus tends to lie on the issuance of licenses or other fishing concessions against license fees. The principle of complementarily constitutes one of the main theoretical justifications in the conclusion of fishing agreements.

In the case of Senegal the development of agreements coincided with the development of the artisanal fishery in the 1980s. From that period, landings operated by this fishery showed a spectacular increase passing from 150 000 metric tonnes in the early 1980s to 250 000 metric tonnes from 1990 and to 350 000 metric tonnes nowadays. Concerning coastal pelagic and demersal resources, the national fleet is not only able to exploit all these stocks, but is also able to fully exploit the resources. Coastal pelagic resources are not fully exploited by the artisanal fishery because of the cost of the capital - in particular since the devaluation. Thus, the complementary, according to the existing scientific data concerns in principle the high seas resources.

Even when conditions of such complementarity are established between the national fleet and the foreign fleet, both fleets compete in the same fishing zones. This competition is in general a double competition between on the one hand the national and the foreign industrial fleets in particular with regard to coastal demersal resources, crustaceans and cephalopods, and on the other hand the artisanal fishery and the industrial (local and foreign) fishery. Conflicts between these two fisheries tend to aggravate since the development of the artisanal fishery place that fishery in a situation of competing offshore with the industrial fishery. This results not only in a depletion of stocks, notably coastal demersal stocks, but also in the destruction of fishing gears and sometimes costly collisions and loss of human lives.

This overcapacity in Senegalese fisheries, in particular with regard to demersal resources, results in overexploitation. Consequently, a major decrease in average sizes of individual fishes and in artisanal units’ outputs, are noticed. Additionally, fishing efforts shifts to species destined to exports, despite the heavy fishing effort exerted on these resources already. The consequence of this is a shortage in fishery products in local markets. This problem is further aggravated by the concession, within the framework of the 1997-2001 fisheries agreement with the European Union, of quotas concerning pelagic resources, even when these quotas have not been exploited. Catches of the artisanal fishery are dominated at over 80 percent by pelagic species, essentially destined to the local market consumption. Considering their role in relation to food security, pelagic resources are extremely sensitive. Although the 2001-2005 fisheries agreement provides nothing to this effect, northern countries have shown interest, and the acceptance of an agreement in this category of species may have psychological consequences as well as with regard to food security.

Despite the complementarity principle being the basis of fisheries agreements concluded with the European Union at the end of 1970s, serious problems appeared, threatening the sustainability of fishery resources exploitation in Senegal. The increasing exploitation of coastal pelagic and demersal stocks, caused by a huge number of national and foreign vessels operating in this area, led to a permanent overexploitation. With regard to the national artisanal fleet, this led to an increasing cost of capital (greater cost with the devaluation of the national currency) and an increasing interest in species essentially destined for exports. Conflicts increased within fishing zones and contributed to increased costs of production (through negative externalities), with the result that only small pelagic stocks are not entirely exploited and still serve for the national consumption and the African consumption, in general.

Fisheries agreements contribute to the deviating fisheries sector not only directly by fishermen, consumers and national processors from a part of resources (provided that processors benefit from the part of catches subject to the obligation of landing), but indirectly because they encourage national and foreign fishermen to implement cooperative strategies and subsequently turning away a part of the national effort from the satisfaction of domestic needs.

These conditions in which a fisheries sector focused on export needs operate, led to the considerable degradation of pelagic fishing units financial accounts (such units are traditionally oriented to the domestic market), and an improved financial situation in the part of demersal fishing units (which mostly dedicate their catches to exporting units). This situation is responsible for important fishing effort shifts, causing available quantities to diminish and increase the price on the local market. Hence, such an evolution is a dangerous threat to food security in a country where fish satisfy some 75 percent of animal proteins needs. In addition, coastal demersal species have been subjected to an increased fishing intensity, leading to a serious threat towards these stocks due to the exportation. Subsequently, environmental risks should be considered in addition to the threats on the processing segment by the increase in number of operators, the shortage of resources, and the high cost of the raw material.

It should be noted however, that the European Union finances 80 to 90 percent of the fishing rights’ financial counterpart (vessels owners financing fishing licences fees). Despite that WTO rules limit the possibility of granting the production and exports (grants may produce an unfair comparative advantage on behalf of the exporters and vis a vis to granted products), it is evident that ACP countries have the responsibility to denounce such a situation or just refuse to conclude agreements.


Coping with difficulties in the area of agriculture, the government, conscious of the contribution of the artisanal fishery (80 percent of landings) to the satisfaction of food needs and to the generation of revenue and employment, implemented several development projects. The most important of these projects are the motorization of the artisanal fishery, and the introduction of the purse seine in that fishery. These two projects benefited from a wide financial support programme. Outboard engines, fishing gears, spare parts and fuel were tax free. The authorities’ major objective, in supporting artisanal fishermen, is to improve the nutritional situation of the Senegalese population by providing products to the local market with prices compatible with their buying power. Nevertheless the artisanal fishery is very integrated in the national economy and contributes substantially to supply fishery products to exporting units.

Catches by industrial units are clearly insufficient to cover fish export needs. Therefore, with the view to ensure their regular fish supplies, some units deal with artisanal fishermen through fish traders, who provide fishermen with all the equipment necessary for their activity. About 60 percent of the industrial export needs are provided by artisanal fishery units. An example of the influence the industrial fishery on the artisanal fisheries orientation is the consequences of the devaluation of the CFA franc in 1994. The expectation of substantial profits in the international market accentuated shifts of fishing effort from species supplied to the local market, to these species (cuttle fish, octopus, sole, lobsters, shrimp, etc.) destined to exports.

Many pelagic fishing units (purse seines and surrounding gill nets) converted to demersal fishing with jigs, for catching the octopus. From October to May, artisanal units that normally operate with the long line, very often use the sole net, therefore, cheap price fishes become less and less available for the population. The fishing pressure is oriented to exportable species and certain artisanal fishing methods are exclusively focused to these species. This fishing effort shift weakened the local fish trade by a reduction of catches dominated by species consumed locally and this situation may cause an increase of the deficit in proteins already noticed in the country as a result from the unequal distribution of the fish consumption in Senegal. The Cymbium example reveals the situation of competition between the local and the export markets. This product is being exported in fresh condition to Asian countries, and is less commonly found in the Senegalese meals. The shift of a part of the artisanal fisheries production to external markets, poses the question of knowing who benefits finally from the financial aids allocated, if not the exporting units and the foreign consumer.


Fishery products and in particular fish, play a fundamental role in the satisfaction of the food needs of the Senegalese population. However, the current fisheries context, characterized by pressures on fish resources and the big rush on the ground of high value products destined to export, are among the main factors that heavily threaten the food security.

This situation results from the negative effects of export promotion policies and artisanal fisheries support policies, as well as fisheries agreements, which contribute to the aggravation of the risks on resources sustainability and the progressive extraversion of the Senegalese fisheries sector. It appears necessary, for improving the food security, to take the following actions.

At the national level:

At the subregional and international levels

- Promote subregional and international cooperation in terms of food security. To this effect:

ANNEX 1: Evolution of Fish Production

Fish Production (1990-2000)

Source: Fishery Department

ANNEX 2: Evolution of Local Fish Consumption and Fish Exports



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