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Overfishing and illegal fishing in Casamance, Senegal


Between March 2010 and April 2012, the Senegalese government granted fishing licenses to European and Russian fishing vessels, without adherence to limits and legal requirements. According to the countrys fisheries law, foreign trawlers are forbidden from trawling in the central Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). However, foreign trawlers were discovered trawling for pelagic fish in Casamance and within the EEZ, with permission granted by the Ministry of Maritime Economy of Senegal, under the government of Adboulaye Wade. Local fisher groups staged mass demonstrations and opposition to the granting of licenses. The minister tried to revise the national Fisheries Code to legitimize the granting of new licenses. By December 2011, the number of pelagic supertrawlers had risen from 21 to 44. Senegalese fishers and civil society groups campaigned to cancel the granting of licenses, to stop overfishing and to develop alternative sustainable fishing practices. Macky Sall, the Senegalese President who came to power in March 2012, canceled 29 fishing authorizations granted to foreign pelagic trawlers. In their 2 years of activity, they had caught 125,000 tonnes, half the overall annual catch of pelagic fish by the entire Senegalese fleet. Some trawlers are reportedly still illegally fishing in Senegalese waters.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Overfishing and illegal fishing in Casamance, Senegal
Location of conflict:Casamance and within Senegals Exclusive Economic Zone
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Fish

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Fishing rights were set at abnormally low levels of 35 USD per tonne of pelagic fish caught.

Type of populationSemi-urban
Company names or state enterprises:Murmansk trawl fleet from Russian Federation
Westrybflot and Transco Company Ltd from Russian Federation
Societe atlantique de peche
Soceiet Senagalaise IH de peche from Senegal
Relevant government actors:The Ministry of Marine Economy
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Senegalese Association of ship owners and industrial processors (GAIPES), Platform of Artisanal Fishing Actors of Senegal (PAPAS), Employers Union of fishing fleet operators, Export traders of Senegal (UPAMES), the associations of women processors, the unions of the Ministry of Maritime Economy (MEM), Greenpeace Africa,

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage)
Other Environmental impactsOverfishing and loss of biodiversity
Possible inexplicable deaths of marine animals
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:-Transparency, good governance and elimination of corruption in the fishery sector;
-the allocation of substantial financial resources to support fishery related scientific research and control in order to overcome IUU fishing (fraud and piracy) and unsustainable practices;
-The new government must stop issuing fishing authorizations to foreign vessels, and support the local fishery sector which employs around one million people;
-Fishermen with the support of Greenpeace are also advocating for the creation of a network of marine reserves in Exclusive Economic Zones and implementation of a sustainable fisheries policy that can guarantee jobs and food security.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:In May 2012, the Senegalese government canceled the fishing authorizations granted to 29 foreign trawlers. But since then, Russia unveiled a strategy to catch more fish in West African waters through new agreements with Senegal and Guinea Bissau.
Fishing is a vital source of livelihood for thousands and has sustained generations of Senegals fishermen. It is estimated that 1 million people depend on fish as primary source of food. Over the past decades, industrial fishing vessels have caused a decline in the amount of fish available to local fishermen. Foreign fishing vessels can capture hundreds of tonnes of fish a day while the fishermens 30-foot pirogues are only able to catch a few tonnes of fish a year. Consequently, fishermen are forced further and further out to sea. Community leaders warned that overfishing could lead to unemployment, grave impacts on health and food security, economic migration toward Europe, an increase in violence and piracy, and in 10 years, no more fish.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Article 16 of Senegals national Fisheries Code

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

The Plunder of a Nations Birthright: the Fishing License Scandal, a Drama in Five Acts. Greenpeace Africa. October 2012.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

IPS report:

All Africa:

IPS report:

Food Sovereignty Tour

African Spotlight:

Death of marine species in Senegalese waters:


Never Again in Our Oceans! Greenpeace Blog post:

On Russias new guidelines:

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network


Photo essay: AllAfrica

Meta information

Contributor:Zahra Moloo
Last update07/11/2017



A man from the Jola tribe fishing on the edge of the sea, Casamance, Sénégal