The Risks Of Senegal's David And Goliath Battle Over Fishing Rights

Massive fishing ships from virtually all the major world powers are draining a way of life from the local fishing-based economy. It could also presage larger geopolitical battles to come.

A traditional fishing boat in Mbour (slosada)
A traditional fishing boat in Mbour (slosada)
Grégoire Allix

MBOUR - Today, dozens of colorful, flat-bottomed pirogue fishing boats can be seen in front of the Mbour beach, 80 kilometers south of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Young men wearing yellow slickers carry heavy cases of catfish on their heads. Water comes up to their chests. Under the concrete canopy of the fish wharf where an oppressive stench hangs, this beach has been turned into a perpetual auction: thousands of men and women spread octopuses, shellfish and sea breams in the hot sun. Yet, some of them go back home with an empty sack.

"Today has not been a good day for fishing" says Abdoulaye Ndao, the owner of a 22-meter pirogue. "Not long ago, we used to catch plenty of fish; but now, fewer all the time."

Gaoussou Gueye of a local association that supports traditional fishermen in Mbour confirms: "Last spring, the lack of fish triggered dramatic food problems and a drop in salaries. Fishermen had to reduce health and school expenses."

Here, everybody is sure that the "Russian boats' are causing this fish shortage: 21 huge freezer-trawlers from abroad (eight of them are from Russia). Senegal's Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Khouraïchi Thiam, sold fishing licenses for these boats to pursue small deep-sea fish like sardines, sardinellas, mackerels and Jack mackerels.

The government's action is seen as a provocation by the Senegalese fishermen, already suffering from overfishing. "These small deep-sea fishes are the basis of our food security" says Gueye.

In Senegal, traditional fishing and its 15,000 pirogues have accounted for up to 80% of the national catch. Fishermen, fish wholesalers, production workers: 600,000 people live thanks to this sector. In Mbour, on July 4, many of them came from Dakar, Kayar, Saint-Louis and Joal to express their worries and anger. "We don't have enough fish to allow them to sell (licenses) to foreign boats' says Abdoulaye Ndao.

In his khaki uniform, the Mbour prefect, the national government's representative in the area, wants to reassure the fishermen: "The foreign boats are not threatening your resources since the trawlermen fish in high-sea zones that can't be reached by the pirogues."

Bara Sow, the representative of the independent fishermen trade union, says this is a joke. "Trawlers keep moving into the zones reserved for traditional fishing. The authorities have been told about it, but it's not getting better." The government has another argument: If they do not sell the licenses, the neighboring countries will pocket all the shoals that migrate along the west African coast. This region attracts thousands of European, Asian and Russian boats, attracted by the plentiful fish stock: like a sea gold rush. Well, so far.

The truth is that the entire planet is suffering from overfishing. "Fishing has become a strategic and geopolitical issue" says Stéphan Beaucher, a representative of the NGO Ocean 2012. He fears the situation could actually lead to a live war over fish, with the world superpowers fighting over the oceans of Africa in the same way they once battled for land.

For the 21 Senegalese licenses, they pay 7.6 million euros: that's 24 euros per ton of fish. These prices fuel suspicions about corruption. "This money won't go to the public accounts. It will be used to finance the 2012 presidential campaign of the governing party's candidate" says Moustapha Dieng, the representative of the traditional fishing trade union in the coastal city of Saint-Louis.

People are angry across western Africa. How many industrial-sized fishing ships comb the African seas? As far as EU is concerned, there are a total of about 500 fishing vessels outside its own zone: 160 in Morocco, about 100 in Mauritania, 60 in the Republic of Guinea Bissau, 40 in Ivory Coast. There are also the fishing-trawlers from Russia, Japan, Korea and the boats sailing under a flag of convenience (Belize and Kiribati). And of course, China. "Until the mid 2000s, China was using absolute wrecks. Now they've been investing in highly capable boats," says Stéphan Beaucher.

To compete, traditional fishing has to modernize its management tools and sanitary operations. In Mbour, for example, the export price is still negotiated directly on the floor of the fishing wharf: while nearby, an EU-funded sales room with laboratory-like facilities sits unused.

Read the original article in French

Photo- slosada

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!