EJF warns new trawlers with history of IUU threaten Senegalese fisheries

Date: April 24, 2020

Source: Undercurrent News

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has warned that the approval of 53 fresh requests for fishing licenses in Senegal could have dire effects for the local fishing community.

The Senegalese fleet is “already grossly over-capacity”, EJF claims, noting that many of the trawlers requesting licenses have past records of illegal, unregulated or unreported (IUU) fishing.

The country’s small-scale artisanal fisher association (APRAPAM) and industrial shipowner association (GAIPES) called on the country’s ministry to decline the licenses last week, saying an approval could do irreversible damage to Senegal’s fisheries.

The fleet is currently 150 vessels in size, meaning that the addition of 53 fresh trawlers would represent an increase of roughly a third. Moreover, scientists are warning that the nation’s small pelagics are already overfished, and fishing efforts should be reduced by 50% in the region — yet 15 of the vessels involved will be allowed to catch these species, EJF claimed.

It also noted that five of the trawlers applying for licenses have previously been caught fishing illegally in inshore or protected areas, while a sixth was detained last year for failing to keep a logbook.

According to APRAPAM and GAIPES, 52 of the trawlers applying for licenses are actually Chinese-owned, although the EJF added that it has not been able to confirm this. 

“An EJF study in Ghana showed that although all industrial trawlers in Ghana are Ghanaian on paper, at least 90% of the trawl fleet is actually linked to Chinese ownership, despite a ban on foreign ownership in the trawl sector,” it noted, pointing to loopholes in Senegalese law that allow foreign companies to obtain licenses by using fictitious joint ventures to operate as a front for their activities in the country.

“The practice of registering foreign-owned vessels is not problematic per se. Rather, it is the extent to which fictitious corporate structures are used to facilitate secrecy, IUU fishing and other fisheries crimes,” said EJF director Steve Trent.

“If the true owners are unknown, they are therefore protected and can profit from illegal practices with low risk of detection. Failing to hold true owners to account prevents the dismantling of networks behind illegal fishing operations. It would be a grave error for Senegal to open its registry so that it becomes a safe haven for those seeking to profit from illegal fishing.”

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