Co-management, the last chance of survival for the shrimp industry in Senegal


In Senegal, the department of Foundiougne is one of the strongholds of shrimp production. Nearly 300 tonnes are landed there every year, i.e. 77% of the total landings according to the Foundiougne fisheries control post. The industry involves nearly 700 fishermen from Foundiougne including 20 surrounding villages and from the sub-region. This has resulted in strong pressure on the resource. Since 2007, a two-month biological rest period (July-August) has been decreed annually to protect the small shrimp that are victims to overfishing. A prefectoral decree at the request of fishermen bans shrimp fishing during this period. They are made responsible for enforcing the measure. A fine of 50,000 FCFA has been set by the local artisanal fishing committee for any recalcitrant fishermen. Food supplies are distributed to the fishermen to compensate for the shortage during this period. This food is purchased with the profits generated by the community maritime hardware store.

The ferry docks after a ten minute crossing of the river that separates the regional capital Fatick from the department of Foundiougne (178 km from Dakar). It gradually empties itself of its mixed cargo of passengers and vehicles.

On the quay, hawkers approach the travellers with various items. But our attention is caught by shrimp in plastic bags sold at 500 FCFA or 1000 FCFA each.  Dried seafood from the work of Foundiougne women. They are gathered in a group of women processors headed by Mrs. Seynabou Diouf. She explains the shrimp processing process. “We buy fresh shrimp that we clean well and boil. After sorting, we dry the shrimp in a well-ventilated place for several days,” says the lady, who is one of the pioneers in the shrimp business. 

“It takes two people to catch the shrimp that you trap with a long net and then you dump all the shrimp into a crate. One night of fishing can land you more than 100 kg of shrimp”

Shrimp fishing is a very popular activity in Foundiougne where nearly 300 tonnes are landed each year. It takes place at night with a special technique that holds no secrets for Amath Faye, in his forties, who has been fishing for more than two decades. He explains: “It takes two people to catch the shrimp that you trap with a long net and then you dump all the shrimp into a crate. One night of fishing can land you more than 100 kg of shrimp”.

The main gear used by most fishermen in Foudiougne to catch shrimp is called “kili”, a foot draining net pulled by two fishermen on the shallow shores.  

Shrimp fishing in Foundiougne involves about 400 natives and a little over 100 fishermen from all over the country.  A very lucrative activity according to Joseph Sarr, Chair of the Local Artisanal Fisheries Committee, a body made up of local fishermen and responsible for enforcing the co-management rules established by administrative authorities. He tells us that during the shrimp season all the perch fishermen are involved in this activity which benefits almost all the families of Foundiougne. 

The statistics of the regional fisheries division of Fatick show that the activity also attracts more than 700 foreign fishermen, most of whom are native to the West African sub-region. According to fisherman Ousmane Ndiaye, this craze can be explained by the fact that it is a lucrative and less painful activity. This is confirmed by the fisherman whose pirogue docks with a dozen crates of shrimp sold 550 FCFA per kilogram. Moreover, the activity does not require much investment. At the very least, an amount of 20.000 FCFA to purchase nets, the two poles, the rope, a torch, a basin or stocking, is enough to commence fishing. The fisherman doesn’t need an engine-powered boat except for some who need to go to distant areas.

A large part of this shrimp is processed by women and sold domestically and even exported in large quantities to European countries, especially France. Every year, shrimp generates a huge profit estimated at between 9 and 10 billion FCFA in exports. According to Lamine Mbaye, coordinator of the project Sustainable Development of Senegal’s Fisheries (Aménagement durable des Pêcheries du Sénégal) by shrimp has ended up causing a strong pressure on the resource. Foundiougne shares its shrimp with about twenty surrounding villages. In order to preserve this fisheries resource, the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Programme (Programme de gestion des ressources marines et côtières, GIRMAC) has been working in the department for five years. Its facilitator, Jean Bienvenue Henri Séne explains that Foundiougne is one of the four fishing sites where co-management is being experimented in Senegal. A strategy that he defines as a sharing of management responsibilities between the State and local stakeholders. Within this framework, local co-management initiatives have been identified by actors associated with twenty villages. They essentially include   regulation of the mesh size for shrimp nets, which have all been replaced with nineteen hundred new nets, and compliance with biological rest. 

“We have noticed that shrimp are becoming increasingly rare but with biological rest they have become more abundant and of better quality.

Preserving the species and the industry by resting the shrimp

Biological rest, a period of one month finally extended to two months by the actors who claim to have noticed an inefficiency, is a period during which a prefectoral decree bans shrimp fishing. It comes as a result of fishermen’s request according to Joseph Sarr, Chair of the Local Artisanal Fishing Committee (Comité Local de Pêche Artisanale, CLPA), who adds that Foundiounge has been applying biological rest since 2007. Mr. Sarr continued: “We have noticed that shrimp are becoming increasingly rare but with biological rest they have become more abundant and of better quality. We held several meetings in the villages to reach a consensus and apply biological rest for one month each year”.

On the sparse fishing wharf in the middle of the morning, Alpha Dieng is dozing under a makeshift shelter. This fisherman says he is waiting for the low tide to return to sea. He tells us that during a period of biological rest, his income drops, but for him it is a necessary evil. He believes that this measure helps the fishermen because if the sea does not rest and all the small shrimp are caught, they will not have enough to fish.

A 50,000 FCFA fine has been set for any offence. To discourage possible recalcitrant fishermen, monitoring teams have been set up. Monitoring on land at the embarkation, landing and sales points. At sea, the CLPA has a patrol boat operating day and night to deter recalcitrants.

To better enforce biological rest, the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Programme (Programme de gestion des ressources marines et côtières) has made a number of social investments. A maritime hardware store has been built in Foundiougne. The profits generated by this trade are used to buy food supplies in periods of shortage. Free food is distributed to fishermen during the biological rest period to compensate for the loss of income. The challenge is to perpetuate the achievements of this community initiative at the end of the project and preserve the shrimp which are a precious resource for the inhabitants of Foundiougne.  According to Mamadou Wade, Head of the Departmental Fisheries Division (service départemental des pêches) of Foundiougne, “regular monitoring of the coastline is necessary to ensure compliance with the regulations in force”. Because, as he highlights: “Shrimp fishing is seasonal and starts each year on September 1st after the Governor of the region decrees  biological rest from July to August across the entire region of Fatick”. He adds that “it is at the end of this period that fishing becomes legal again”. And in this period, shrimp fishing which is in full swing has enabled the deployment of several categories of actors in the different fishing areas of Foundiougne.

Unfair competition from foreign vessels

There are very few shrimp fishermen from Foundiougne who go to the open sea. It is therefore rare to record altercations with foreign vessels, but the impact of their presence in Senegalese waters is felt in the catches of artisanal fishermen. “They use very sophisticated gear that leaves almost nothing behind. Some venture towards the coast and often cause accidents, especially with small artisanal fishing boats,” deplores Fallou, a seasonal fisherman from neighbouring Gambia.  

Fifty-four applications for industrial fishing licences for foreign vessels are currently pending on the desk of Senegal’s Fisheries and Maritime Economy Minister. Most of these vessels of Chinese origin are interested in small pelagics, hake and shrimp.  

Industrial shrimp fishing is carried out by trawlers varying from around 20 to 25 metres in length, a crew of around ten people fishing for around twenty-five days.  According to official figures in 2000, some 80 trawlers had been granted the “coastal shrimp” licence, producing royalties of around 400 million FCFA. But since 2008 the number of foreign trawlers targeting inshore shrimp on the Senegalese coast dwindled to nearly 25 and royalties dropped to 200 million FCFA annually (192 million FCFA for 24 licences).

This massive arrival of foreign vessels is constantly decried by artisanal fishermen who see it as a threat to the sustainability of their activities. It is indeed a never-ending battle waged by organisations that champion artisanal fishermen. On the other hand, the government seems to maintain its position. In one of its outings Aliou Ndoye, Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Economy claimed that Senegalese waters have enough resources that artisanal vessels alone cannot exhaust.  

 Youssouph Bodian 


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