Senegal rejects Chinese trawler license applications prior to China-Africa summit

Published on
June 18, 2020

Senegal has said no to more Chinese trawlers entering the country’s waters, even as China convenes a summit with African leaders this week.

The Senegalese Fisheries Ministry has said it won’t proceed with license applications for 53 vessels, mostly with Chinese and Turkish ownership.

“It’s an important step forward thanks to our action and alert the new demands for licenses have not been met,” Alassane Dieng, head of Groupement des Armateurs et Industriels de la Pêche au Senegal (GAIPES), which represents local fishing interests, told SeafoodSource.

Dieng said he wants the Senegalese government to go further and review all licenses issued under irregular circumstances.

“At least 12 licenses have been approved under an option which is not in accordance with Senegalese fishery law and is thus illegal, and we demand their removal from our fishery,” he said. “There would also be other vessels of foreign origin which benefitted from licenses that were not examined by the [Licensing Advisory] Commission, which is required by law to be done.” Dieng said. “Worse, these authorizations were given on the resources which are already overexploited.”

Dieng said he believes foreign fishing firms that have relabeled catch taken illegally from Senegalese waters should be pursued for fraud.

In a May interview with SeafoodSource, the GAIPES director also complained about what he said was the lack of transparency in government licensing and criticized the state for not publishing a list of licensed vessels by flag and ownership.

“In effect, one doesn’t know the number of licenses given in 2018, 2019, or 2020,” he said.

Thus far, the issue hasn’t featured in Chinese news media. A virtual summit conducted this week between the Chinese president and his African counterparts was billed as “brotherly togetherness” in blanket coverage by China’s national broadcaster. Aside from a pledge from Beijing to build “friendship” hospitals in Africa, the summit ducked the issue of debt forgiveness, with China pledging to cancel only the zero-interest loans which make up only a small portion of Africa’s debt to China – the bulk of which is owned to state controlled Chinese banks.

“Together, we will build a China-Africa community of health for all,” according to a draft statement released by the Chinese government. “We must stay committed to enhancing China-Africa cooperation. To cushion the impact of COVID-19, it is important to strengthen Belt and Road cooperation and accelerate the follow-ups to the FOCAC Beijing Summit.”

Many Chinese fishing firms have used the Belt and Road Initiative as an imprimatur for their expansion into African waters, with companies regularly announcing distant-water fleet expansions as part of the “BRI spirit.”

Photo courtesy of Anze Furlan/Shutterstock

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