Senegal, Mauritania end fishing stalemate

Published on
March 2, 2020

Senegal and Mauritania, two West African countries with huge fishing potential, have agreed to end a fishing stalemate between them that saw nearly 12,000 Senegalese fishers banned from accessing Mauritanian fishing sites for several months.

The ban originated from alleged incidents of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in Mauritania’s waters by Senegalese fishermen.

Senegalese President Macky Sall and his Mauritanian counterpart, Mohammed Ould Ghazouani, were reported by the North Africa Post to have revived a fishing partnership in mid-February that had been renewed in early 2018. That partnership allowed Senegalese fishers to catch up to 50,000 metric tons (MT) of fish with 400 fishing vessels in return for payment of EUR 15 (USD 16.54) per MT of fish caught.

The new agreement comes several months after Mauritania decided in early 2019 to ban all foreign fishing boats, including those from Senegal, from its waters because of their alleged contribution to IUU fishing.

Mauritania had imposed hefty fines on Senegalese fishermen caught engaging in illegal fishing within Mauritanian waters. However, with the new agreement, the fines have been lifted, and Sall said both his country and Mauritania were “opening a new page in the management of fisheries agreements between the two countries.”

Senegalese vessels' involvement in IUU fishing in the region has been persistent, with an estimated 2.6 million MT of fish worth USD 300 million (EUR 269 million) lost annually. In response, Senegal's government the number of foreign industrial vessels it authorized to fish its waters.

However, many of the vessels locked out of the fishery are said to have sought legal status from Senegal’s neighbors but “continue to enter Senegalese waters to fish illegally," according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Some vessels have been caught falsifying records to cover up for the illegal fishing, while others engage in illegal fish landing, unloading their catch at sea, or using vessel flags of convenience to evade compliance.

Both Mauritania and Senegal have been beneficiaries of the World Bank-financed West Africa Regional Fisheries Program, which is building the capacity of the region to deal with the  overexploitation and subsequent depletion of local fisheries.

Photo courtesy of The World Bank

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