Senegal court case could impact fishmeal industry expansion in West Africa

Published on
September 27, 2022
Members of the Taxawu Cayar Collective protest in front of Senegal's High Court.

A case taken by a Senegalese community coalition to close a fishmeal plant could have implications for the expansion of production in the region, which has seen major expansion by Chinese operators in particular, alongside plants built by European, Russian, and Turkish operators.

Members of the Taxawu Cayar Collective, made up of female fish processors and artisanal fishers – along with community and environmental representatives – went to the High Court in Thiès, Senegal, to request an injunction to temporarily close the Touba Protéine Marine fishmeal factory, which was previously owned by Spanish firm Barna before being bought out by local management

Maitre Bathily, the collective’s lawyer, said the litigation was a first for Africa and a “historic test” of local institutions. He said his case will also shed light on how fishmeal factories are licensed in Senegal: According to Bathily, the factory has “repeatedly broken environmental codes, and the environmental impact assessment conducted before it opened clearly had enormous flaws."

The court case has been adjourned until 6 October, 2022, but leaving the court, Maty Ndao, a Taxawu Cayar Collective member, said the collective was taking a stand against abuses carried out on her community by the fishmeal and fish oil industry.”

“Now big business is running scared. We protested and lobbied, and the Spanish owners ran away. But the new owners are the same factory managers who have made us suffer for years. They tried to buy off our community and they also tried threats, but none of it worked and we won’t stop fighting. We’ve come to court today and we’re going to shut them down,” Ndao said. “[The factory owners] pollute the land and the drinking water, and they destroy the sea. Our town is filled with the terrible noxious smell of rotting fish. Our children’s health and our ability to make a living are at stake. That’s why we will never give up."

IFFO, The Marine Ingredients Organization, a trade body representing the fishmeal and fish oil sector, said its membership is not well-represented in the West Africa region and it had no comment on the situation regarding TPM fishmeal plant.

“IFFO cannot comment on specific cases, but wants to make it clear that its priority is to ensure that food security for local populations is not undermined. Proven overfishing or any IUU practices are not acceptable,” an IFFO spokesperson said.

IFFO set up the Global Marine Ingredients Roundtable in 2021 “to better understand how its members and related supply chains fit into the overall situation in West Africa, and what opportunities there are to best support improvements, including refocusing supply chains for human consumption while maintaining high quality byproducts for marine ingredients, and addressing the environmental impacts of marine ingredient production.”

“As a trade body, IFFO has to limit its action scope to precompetitive initiatives, which include sharing of best practices and stakeholder engagement,” IFFO said. “IFFO set up the Global Roundtable on Marine Ingredients, together with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, back in 2021, to coordinate the marine ingredients value chain around key sustainability topics and take action.”

At the time the roundtable was initiated, IFFO Director General Petter Johannessen said the roundtable’s first priority will be West Africa, where production of marine ingredients has increased over the past decade, with associated economic and social challenges. The multispecies fisheries in Southeast Asia, which are tainted by human rights and labor abuses, are also a priority target, Johannessen said.

Members of the roundtable, which include Olvea, BioMar, Cargill, Skretting, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Marin Trust, the Global Seafood Alliance, Nestlé, the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers, and the Marine Stewardship Council, gave an update in June 2022 in which they said their progress in West Africa has been focused on working on improvements in fisheries based in Senegal, Mauritania, and the Gambia, with three main goals aligned with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s vision for the region.

Those goals include directing regulatory efforts towards effective regional and national fishery management, including regular assessment of key stocks of fish and effective monitoring of harvest and post-harvest activities; Assessing and monitoring fish consumption, affordability, and importance for food security and nutrition; and promoting better fish-harvesting methods and more-efficient fish handling and processing to reduce bycatch and losses.

Photo courtesy of Greenpeace/Annika Hammerschlag

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