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Holiday Season Magnifies Fish Shortage in Southern Senegal


Little supply in the fish market has sent prices skyrocketing

Housewives in Senegal say a shortage of fish has caused prices to nearly triple at the market.

Boubacar Sambou is a fisherman in Southern Senegal, and he laments the shortage of fish in his local waterways.

There are not enough fish, he says as he points out to the Atlantic Ocean beyond his brightly colored pirogue.

In the marketplace, housewife Mariama Goudiaby has trouble finding enough fish to buy for her family.

She says the little amount that is available at the market is getting more expensive.

As a government fishing inspector in the area, Moustapha Coly says there are many explanations for the shortage. At the end of the year, fishermen's licenses often run out, so they must get their paperwork renewed. In addition, many go home to their families in northern Senegal to celebrate the holidays.

But the temporary spike in a fish shortage just puts the spotlight on a year-round problem for the West African region, he adds.

Coly says in the past, the northern areas of Senegal were abundant with fish, but due to overfishing, the boats have now come south.

Sambou agrees that overfishing is a problem, but he says he still wants the state to alleviate restrictions it has put on fishing zones.

He says the fishermen pray that things will get better, but he adds they also pray that the state helps them. Sambou wants the state to open up restricted zones in the area and allow fishing in protected waters.

Because of overfishing, efforts for governments in West Africa to regulate their waters have increased recently. The World Bank has initiated the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program, which is a $90-million effort to help the area's countries generate more wealth from their fishing resources, while also supporting sustainable management.

Of the $3 billion that is currently made from fishing in West Africa annually, only $571 million goes into building value in the fishing areas.

The housewife, Goudiaby, says she has heard one explanation for the shortage of fish is because many fishermen are using their boats to transport illegal immigrants to Spain. But Coly says only some of the captains are doing this, and it does not amount to many fishermen.

As Sambou sits by the shore, he looks out at the large fishing boats. Many of them will go to neighboring Guinea-Bissau or Guinea Conakry, he says, because there are no fish to be found in Senegal.

"Where am I supposed to go to fish," he asks.

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