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Senegal, Guinea-Bissau Agree to Trade Fisheries Resources

A new deal will allow Senegalese fishermen to work in neighboring Guinea-Bissau's waters. Ricci Shryock reports for VOA from Dakar that many hope the deal will help the impoverished countries compete with boats from the European Union, which they say have depleted West African fish stocks.

In their new united front, fishermen from Senegal and Guinea-Bissau say they hope to benefit from shared resources.

A fisheries official based in Dakar, Bahe Beye, says access to fish stocks in Guinea-Bissau will help Senegalese fishermen compete with European Union trawlers.

He says the new agreement will benefit both countries. Senegalese knowledge will help Guinea-Bissau fishermen.

According to the U.S. State Department, most fishing in Guinea Bissau's waters is not done by Bissau-Guinean fisherman.

Meanwhile, fishermen from Senegal who wish to fish in the neighboring country's waters will pay for a license, which will increase cash flow into impoverished Guinea-Bissau.

The head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Marine Program, Carl Gustaf Lundin, speaking from Brussels, tells VOA that efforts to give African fishermen more access to nearby waters could also lead to more control over fish stocks.

"What we need is a proper assessment of the stocks, a reduction of the overall efforts and then a clear division of quotas between the different parties that are active in the fisheries," Lundin said.

Overfishing remains an issue. According to a Canadian study, West Africa's fish stock has declined by up to 50 percent in the past three decades.

Much of the overfishing grows out of agreements between West African governments and the European Union, which give European boats vast access to African waters in exchange for money and training. African governments and traditional fishermen have tried to make these agreements more beneficial to them in recent years.

Senegalese Fisheries Minister Souleymane Ndene Ndiaye says the inter-African agreement should give the West African nations a stronger voice when agreements with the European Union are re-negotiated.