Senegal proposes review of international fisheries agreements, threatening future of EU access deal

"We believe that the E.U.’s responsibility is to be a loyal, reliable partner, with no hidden agenda."
Senegal President Bassirou Diomaye Faye
Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye has commenced a review of the country's fisheries agreements | Photo courtesy of Presidency of Senegal
6 Min

Senegal President Bassirou Diomaye Faye is proposing a review of fisheries agreements the West African country has signed with foreign entities to ensure the deals are more responsive to overfishing and its impact on small-scale fishers.

Faye, who was sworn in on 2 May 2024, said another goal of auditing the country’s maritime fisheries regulations is curbing IUU fishing that has proliferated along Senegal’s coastal waters.

A 2022 Environmental Justice Foundation report found that illegal fishing in Senegal “lets some trawlers catch vast amounts of fish, depleting vital populations and outcompeting small-scale local fishers who play by the rules.” It estimated Senegal loses an estimated USD 272 million (EUR 252 million) to IUU fishing annually.

Faye, a former tax inspector, told European Council President Charles Michel in early May 2024 that his government’s plan to audit fisheries agreements, licenses, and regulations will not only give small-scale fishers a say in the country’s fishing industry, which is mainly dominated by industrial fishers, but also ensure sustainable exploitation of marine resources.

Although he did not give exact timelines, Faye said he would like the process to conclude before the expiration of the current fisheries protocol in November 2024.

Michel responded by saying Europe is ready to evaluate its partnership with Senegal, especially in the fisheries sector, by “looking at the facts and seeing how we can, if necessary, make improvements on both sides to address a number of legitimate concerns.”

“Indeed, we believe that the E.U.’s responsibility is to be a loyal, reliable partner, with no hidden agenda because we have a very objective interest in Senegal being able to meet the challenges it faces: the challenge of development, economic emergence, and improved living conditions for the people,” he said.

Senegal first signed a fisheries agreement with the E.U. in 1979, which was implemented through a series of protocols that gave E.U. vessels access to Senegal’s marine waters until 2006. The deal was then amended in 2014 and restructured into a five-year agreement that mainly concerned tuna but also featured stipulations on black hake.

Both the E.U. and Senegal signed a new protocol in November 2019, providing fishing opportunities for tuna seiners, pole-and-line vessels, and longliners from Spain, Portugal, and France.

“The fisheries agreement with Senegal is a central piece of the network of E.U. agreements in West Africa, which also includes neighboring Mauritania, Cape Verde, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau,” the E.U. Parliament said.

The E.U. has offered to help Senegal better protect its waters from IUU through a proposed deployment of the E.U. border agency, Frontex, to its territorial waters, even as it issued Senegal  a yellow card warning in May 2024.

Accountability.Fish Global Director Ryan Orgera, whose non-governmental organization has called for greater transparency in bilateral fishery access deals, said the both the E.U. and Senegal should ... 

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