ISSF: Blue Justice Alert

Blue Justice Alert

Maritime Artisanal Fishery | Senegal
Small-scale fisheries (SSF) name Maritime Artisanal Fishery, Senegal
Small-scale fisheries country Senegal
Main Species (1) Coastal pelagic resources : sardinella, horse mackerel, mackerel, etc. and (2) Coastal demersal resources (white shrimp, red mullet, sea bream, grouper, cuttlefish, octopus, sole, etc.).
Geographic Scope
Local Senegal Rural, less developed Senegal
General Information about SSF
Type of SSF:
SSF type(s): Commercial, Subsistence,
Dominant ecosystems in the location:
A. Ecosystem type(s): Marine,
B. Ecosystem detailed type(s): Beach, Coastal, Open Ocean,
SSF term and definition:
A. Term(s) used to refer to SSF: Artisanal, Inshore, Traditional,
B. Are small-scale fisheries defined? Yes
Provide SSF definition, if applicable: Given the Fisheries Code is considered as artisanal Fishing vessel: "Any open vessel that uses means to capture fish , that is not mechanically operated and whose only means of conservation is ice or salt "
NB: Translation from french to English by Author
Main gears type(s): Seine Net, Sorrounding Net, Traps, Hook and Line, Drift net, long line,
Main vessel type(s),number(s) and engine size:
Type(s): Planked Dug out
Number(s): 11.07
Engine size: 20 HP
Number of SS fishers:
A. Total number of SS fishers: 68.18
B. % of full-time: 80
C. % of fisher women: 0
Number of all households and SS households in the location:
A. Total number of households in the location: 34.000
B. % of households participating in SSF: 100
Social Justice/Equity Issues
Background about SSF: From colonial times to the present day, there has been a constant in the way policy makers and their technical partners portray artisanal fisheries. For the latter, as the following illustrations show, artisanal fishing was doomed since the colonial period to its own demise because it was considered archaic. Indeed, there has always been a willingness on the part of the decision-makers in charge of artisanal fisheries to profoundly transform the internal functioning of artisanal fisheries, which inevitably implies the questioning of the internal social organisation that is specific to it, because it is considered by these "technocratic developers" to be outdated. In fact, from 1953 onwards (Senegal gained independence in 1960), the first attempts to motorize pirogues were made under the colonial regime. These first attempts were followed by others after independence and up to the present day, the sole aim of which is to modernize what is commonly known as "modernization of small-scale fishing". This is a technocratic approach to the sector which is tinged with a form of "social Darwinism" which was to see artisanal fishing evolve one day into modern industrial fishing. Indeed, the Senegalese State's desire, as early as the mid-1960s, to introduce 12-meter trawlers (a prototype from Portugal), which were to gradually replace pirogues, is to be credited to this approach, the content of which did not stand up to the analysis of the facts. The small-scale processing subsectors on the one hand and the informal market for fresh fish, in which women are the main players, have not been spared this narrow vision of fishing, which is wrongly reduced to a simple economic activity, its social and cultural dimension being completely ignored. There have indeed been several technical innovations towards these two sub-sectors (construction of cold rooms with advanced technologies, introduction of various modern processing technologies) which have all ended in failure. In fact, between 1979 and 1980, with the support of Canadian Cooperation (CIDA), refrigeration units were set up to encourage fishermen to modernize the sale of products through cooperatives. These centres never functioned as planned, as the fishermen preferred to collaborate with the traditional fish merchants, given the extra-professional and complex relations between them.This reflects a total ignorance on the part of political decision-makers of the true meaning that fishing communities give to an activity that is a referent of identity. The obstinacy of those in charge of fishing to replace the traditional wooden canoe with fiberglass boats is indicative of their inability to understand the meaning given to this type of boat which cannot be reduced to a simple mean of production. It should be noted that for decades (and still today) many attempts have ended in failure. It would perhaps be useful to specify that, apart from the adoption of a single type of engine (among several that were proposed) and the introduction of the purse seine, the main initiatives that have enabled fishing to reach such a level of development (including the fact that at least 65% of volumes exported nowadays come from SSF) is thanks to the ingenuity of the fishing communities themselves. The important social and economic role of SSF (number of people leaning on for livelihood as well for revenues, great contribution to food security for both coastal and rural communities, etc.) that is palpable even by an non observer arriving on a SSF landing site is not recognised by decision makers. The failures known by the authorities through their constant will to modernise SSF not only illustrate a lack of sensitivity towards the multidimensional merits of such a sector but they also testify to the capacity of SSF to row against thick and thin. However, some has the right to fear that the non-recognition of this capital role will not only persist but also, the current trend to promote the economy goes in the direction of further marginalizing until drowning the artisanal fishing. The concept of "blue economy" refuses to recognize fishing communities for the deep meaning they attach to fishing as a "cultural identifier" reducing everything to the economy . This is all the more worrying in a context where, with new gas and oil fields discovered, unless they benefit from strong support at the international level, communities risk going to the altar of sacrifice. It is all the more imperative that the voice of fishing be better heard since, Senegal like the overwhelming majority of the countries of the African continent is changing its fishing policy towards the blue economy as a framework benchmark, a new approach strongly promoted by the Inter-State Bureau of Animal Resources of the African Union and the African Developement Bank. In addition to the use of « technological innovations » to challenge the organization and internal functioning specific to these communities there are certain Processes that are an integral part of public fisheries policies that have the same objectives. We can cite two in progress from the mid-1990s, namely the introduction of the fishing permit and an accompanying measure which is the registration of canoes. While everyone agrees on the principle of regulating access, this initiative, which was taken as part of a World Bank project, resulted in the marginalization of traditional leaders who used to have a say everytime it happened to talk about new decisons from Government . Indeed, for the implementation of this project, new leaders were created with the establishment of new local authorities which entered into conflict of jurisdiction with those who traditionally represented fishing communities.
Justice in context: There is a social injustice which is generated and maintained by the inability of decision makers to differentiate between "Law in the singular" and "Rights in the plural". The fishing communities have rights prior to the drafting of the laws of several countries in our sub-region such as Senegal. Among these basic rights enjoyed by these communities and that are gradually questionned we can cite:
1. The right to settle on the coast to work and live there. This right has been called into question with the development of seaside tourism for decades and recently since the exploration of oil and gas.
2. The right to access to certain services provided by marine ecosystems: supply of products for consumption or sale in order to acquire other goods or services; access to cultural services of marine ecosystems such as animals or aquatic plants intended for traditional medicine.These rights are more questioned with the establishment of certain Marine Protected Areas which are increasingly privatized in a subtle way under the cloak of biodiversity protection. Indeed, there is a luxury ecotourism which is developing for the benefit of more or less affluent people to the detriment of communities which no longer have access to it.
3. The permanent questioning of the right to install their work units for women specializing in the artisanal processing of products which is traditionally done on the coast very close to the landing sites. This is the consequence of two factors (i) tourism and (ii) the requirements of European standards. It is common to see women displaced far from their usual site to make way for infrastructure intended to ensure the quality of products intended for export. We have, among others, the cases of Mbour and Joal.
4. The right to have a say in matters relating to fishing policies is increasingly questioned for true leaders who enjoy all the legitimacy required from the fishing communities they traditionally represent. Two factors are at the basis of this process for Senegal, namely (i) the authorities' decision to consider only the people put in charge of the local structures created within the framework of the World Bank project and (ii) a new ongoing trend willing to promote ub-regional or regional or even continental approach. This new approach is encouraged by certain institutions such as the FAO, the African Union, etc. This is how we are witnessing the emergence of new leaders who, because having made higher studies and mastering the new techniques of communication but not necessarily having the required legitimacy, don't enable people leaning dialy speaking on fisheries to take the floor. This marginalisation of genuine leaders is considered as a major issue in traditional fishing communities.
Types of justice:
  • Distributive justice
  • Social justice
  • Economic justice
  • Market justice
  • Infrastructure/wellbeing justice
  • Procedural justice
  • Environmental justice
  • COVID-19 related
Dealing with justice: These issues are not addressed as they should for the following reasons (i) the fishing communities are very poorly represented by leaders who do not have the required training, nor the legitimacy and life experience to integrate these issues of which they practically speak; we observe on the contrary that there is no thematic evolution given that all their discourse has generally revolved around fishing agreements for several years (ii) certain very committed NGOs position themselves as defenders of the rights of communities but are always focused on fishing agreements and possibly IUU fishing (iii) these questions are more dealt with in social movements in Asia for example than in West Africa, of which Senegal is a part. Regarding academia, compared to other cultural spheres, our academia are not used to be really engaged for SSF. From Government we can't expect any effort..
In other words, these « fundamental human rights related issues » are generally not included – in the case of West Africa - in the Agenda neither by NGOs nor by fishermen's organisations, let alone by civil society organisations. But if these issues are not taken into account, this failure can be explained ( but can’t be justified ) by a context characterised by the marginalisation of SSF’ communities. For example, in Senegal, no household can go without fish for more than two days, but at the same time the overwhelming majority of the population is unaware of the extent to which the basic rights of « fishers » and « women in fisheries » are violated on a daily basis because of harmful public policies on the one hand and the development of other competitive sectors of activity in coastal areas on the other.
Now with regard to Covid 19 and how it seriously impact on fishworkers' social and living condition, it can be resumed as following:
As far as fishermen are concerned, it is quite simply a question of challenging a cycle that has been established for generations and which dictated the entire pace of catching activities, and consequently, the entire pace at which the ancillary and related fishing activities took place. For example, by way of illustration, among the measures taken by the authorities, the SSF landing sites are closed from 4 p.m. onwards. This means in other words that all fishermen without ice autonomy (more than 90% of the fishermen) are obliged to return before 14.00, regardless of the outcome of the sea trip. As the time spent at sea is limited, this constraint to return even without fish has led to a very high level of indebtedness on the informal credit market, resulting in a cessation of activity in many cases along all the Senegalease coastal line . In the majority of SSF harbours , the inability of fishermen owning their own pirogues to cope with the over-indebtedness has led them to work as crew members on board other units (using other gears) if only to provide daily food for their families. This change from the status of "head of family owner of a fishing unit" to "simple crew member" is considered "degrading" because the authority of a fisherman, as well as his social status/prestige, is "riveted" on his production unit. Another disturbance has occurred at the migration level, which is one of the fundamental characteristics of the fishery. Those that are made possible by the ingenuity of fishermen who use multi-purpose strategies (variability in technological choices) to adapt to all fishing zones (places where migrants are received) obey a natural cycle and are the basis of local poles of economic and social development in the host sites sesonaly speaking. The main reason for this disturbance is that confinement prohibits fishermen from leaving their fishing area.On the economic level, this has created a disaster since one of the characteristics of the fishery is that the fishermen, depending on the target species, market their catches in places other than their places of residence. The distance between places of residence and the markets can reach more than several hundred kms in many cases.

With regard to women involved in the marketing of fresh fish as well for those in processing, the impacts are also alarming given the nature of their activities, with a few illustrations. First of all, there are women who are generally the main actors of what is called "micro level fish marketing ", in comparison with men who trade large quantities by means of refrigerated trucks in the national level. These women, given their low investment capacity, either supply the local market (markets in the various municipalities) or take public transport to sell the fish in the residential areas to households with a relatively average standard of living. But the pandemic has deprived them of their daily income in the following way.First, the markets (at the municipal level) were closed during the period from March to May before being opened three times a week, excepted the week end as Saturday and Sunday are devoted to disinfecting the markets . Added to this is the pshycosis created by the pandemic among populations who were hesitant to go to the markets. With regard to those that specialized in the sale of fish in urban and peri-urban areas, two problems arose (i) difficulties in accessing public transport since transport prices were increased, with the limitation of the number of passengers (ii) regular customers who are generally of a certain standard of living begin to obtain seafood from certain fishmongers or super markets which they considered more hygienic, compared to products from women from popular backgrounds.
As for the markets, the landing sites which are traditionally used at the same time by fish women retailers , are also closed on Saturday and Sunday, no activity being authorized. These two days are devoted to disinfecting the premises. This deeply damaged a specific category of women traditionally specialized in the sale of noble species to a relatively wealthy section of the Senegalese population. These customers traditionally make their purchases in bulk for a period of at least two weeks. Women who have been able to acquire important social status through the sale of fish have become so with this segment of the value chain. But with the pandemic, they experienced a considerable loss of income, given the fact that their main customers, an integral part of the relatively wealthy class, fled the landing sites by withdrawing to the super markets for hygiene reasons.
Last by not least we must note the catastrophic consequence for food security. In fact, as the last majority of Senegalease popuation are in rural areas, their access to fish for proteine (meat being expensive) depend on this ability of fishmongers (men generally speaking) to supply even the most remote areas. But with the curfew (March to June) and the ban on movement between administrative regions (March to June), the fish could no longer be delivered, also causing a cessation of activity and a considerable loss of income for fish wholesalers specializing in this sector
Contributor's Information
Name of Contributor Aliou SALL
E-mail Address
Affiliation CREDETIP (NGO): Centre de Recherche sur le Developpement des Technologies - Pêche
Country Senegal
Role and involvement in SSF Socio-anthropologist specialized in fisheries engaged with the Fisheries social movements in Senegal as well at regional and international levels since 1989 through (i) research work highlighting the negative impacts of fisheries policies on the part of the State of Senegal and international agencies involved in fisheries (ii) advocacy in favour of these communities through lobbying and advocacy via platforms such as Toobigtoignore.
Where this photo was taken Picture taken in Hann SSF landing site
When this photo was taken (Date) 1st May 2018
Name of the photographer Aliou SALL