Senegal Fisheries Applied Political Economy Analysis

Speeches Shim


Applied Political Economy Analysis Background

USAID/Senegal and USAID/Washington staff from Biodiversity, Feed the Future (FTF), Global Climate Change (GCC) and Democracy, Human Rights and Governance (DRG) joined together to undertake an applied Political Economy Analysis (PEA) in Senegal in October 2016. While progress has been made in the sector, the applied PEA sought to better understand why unsustainable fishing persists, despite evidence that many of the fisheries are on the brink of collapse from overfishing. The applied PEA contributed to the understanding of the problem and the strategic approaches to address the problem

This report contains the initial findings from the applied PEA. Additional applied PEA work will be needed to better understand the industrial fishing and processing contexts, map actors and their interests and influence, and explore other issues as they arise or change. It is envisioned that the Mission team will continue to utilize the applied PEA methodology and way of thinking to remain abreast of changes in situations, as well as advise the implementation of the current project, COMFISH Plus.


Senegal is hailed as a “model for democracy” in West Africa.[1] With a population of 15.3 million, the country has benefited from three peaceful democratic transitions and relatively strong economic growth in recent years.[2] Historically, Senegal has had a strong central government with a powerful presidency that relied heavily on patronage politics to govern. Since winning the competitive election in 2012, President Macky Sall has ushered in decentralization and other positive reforms and reinvigorated the citizenry to demand more accountability and better governance.[3] In March 2016, Senegal held a referendum to reduce the length of the presidential term from seven to five years, create a new consultative assembly, allow an independent candidate status for all elections, establish an official status for the opposition leader, embark on land and natural resources management reform, and establish the right to a healthy environment. Senegal appears as a rather centralized state as pertains to checks and balances. A special social and political feature of the country lies in the importance of Muslim brotherhoods and traditional circles in decision-making but also for a majority of Senegalese people who follow to them and who revere their leaders.

With an all-time high growth rate of 6.5 percent in 2015, a growth rate of 6.8% in 2017 and predicted 7% growth rate in 2018, Senegal is the second fastest growing economy in West Africa. Growth is strongest in the primary sector, especially extractives, fishing, and agriculture. Industry also is important, but services, particularly the growing transportation and communications sectors, represent more than half of the total GDP.[4] The Sall Administration has focused on implementing the Plan Senegal Emergent, which strives to make Senegal an emerging market economy by 2035 by focusing on: “(1) higher and sustainable growth in the range of seven to eight percent, based on foreign direct investment (FDI), export-driven structural transformation and widening the circle of opportunity to provide space for [small and medium-sized enterprises]; (2) human development and social protection; and (3) improved governance, peace, and security.”[5]

Fishing is an important economic activity that provides food and livelihoods for many Senegalese and their neighbors. One in six Senegalese work in the fisheries sector.[6] Overfishing has affected 50 percent of fish stocks in western Africa[7] and greatly diminished the fish stocks in Senegal. This trend is similar to the state of global fisheries where more than 30 percent of assessed fish stocks are overexploited and another 60 percent are harvested at their maximum sustainable yield.[8] The decline of this resource threatens the economic livelihoods and food security of millions of people in Senegal and surrounding countries. Local artisanal fishing accounts for 80 percent of the reported catch and an estimated 60 percent of all fish caught. From 1999 to 2011, the industrial illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) catch was estimated at 2.6 million tons, worth US $300 million per year. The increase in IUUF is somewhat correlated with the decrease in the number of foreign industrial vessels authorized to fish in Senegal, many of which then sought legal status in neighboring countries but continue to enter Senegalese waters to fish illegally.[9] Moreover, Senegalese-flagged vessels owned by joint-venture companies reportedly engage in fraudulent and illegal practices, such as falsified catch documentation, illegal fish landing, unloading at sea, use of flags of convenience, unlawful accumulation of licenses, failure to embark observers, and dodging fines when caught.[10]

The GOS has expressed commitment to sustainably managing fisheries and increasing enforcement efforts to stop IUUF. The GOS passed an updated Fishing Code and Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector Policy and Development Letter to improve overall management of the sector and increase fines for both artisanal and industrial IUUF. It also is working with the World Bank to freeze the already large artisanal fleet by registering licensed pirogues in a more permanent manner (plaques as opposed to painted identification), equipping registered boats with Automatic Identification System (AIS) chips, and banning the construction of new pirogues. Even with limited state resources for surveillance, the GOS has increased human resources dedicated to enforcement, initiated the ratification process for the Food and Agricultural Organization-led Port States Measures Agreement (PSMA) to increase international coordination to detect IUUF, and punished industrial and artisanal IUUF in some cases.

By close of 2016, USAID/Senegal extended its current fisheries project, COMFISH, implemented by the University of Rhode Island, until 2018. In the first five years, the project focused on increasing the capacity of GOS institutions and Local Artisanal Fishery Councils (CLPA) to improve sustainable fisheries management. COMFISH Plus pursued efforts to build on the enabling conditions for sustainable management of fishing resources, namely:

  • Strong constituencies for implementing reforms to address the overfishing, excess capacity and IUU fishing issues;
  • Institutional capacities sufficient to implement policy reform and plans of action;
  • Government commitment to the policies, management reforms and sectoral strengthening through delegation of authorities and allocation of financial resources; and
  • Adoption of shared goals that address societal, environmental, and climatic conditions against which efforts can be measured.[11]

This PEA was scoped broadly to better understand why unsustainable fishing continues in Senegal and tested some of assumptions of the drivers of change in the status of fisheries. The PEA also uncovered several questions that merit further investigation that this initial, brief applied PEA does not address, particularly related to industrial fishing and processing and joint-venture company licensing and operations.

[1] BBC, Senegal's President-elect Macky Sall hails ‘new era,’ March 26, 2012,, accessed November 7, 2016.

[2] Country Overview, World Bank,, accessed November 11, 2016.

[3] USAID Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Assessment of Senegal, January 2013.

[4] World Bank,, accessed November 15, 2016.

[5] World Finance, IMF: Senegal emerging economy status ‘achievable,’

imf-interview-senegal-emerging-economy-status-achievable, accessed November 7, 2016.

[6] Greenpeace, The Plunder of a nation’s birthright, 2012, page 22,

africa/Global/africa/publications/oceans/ThePlunderOfANationsBirthright.pdf, accessed November 7, 2016.

[7] Overseas Development Institute, Western Africa’s Missing Fish: The impact of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and under-reporting catches by foreign fleets, page 10, published 2016, accessed November 17, 2016.

[8] FAO, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture: Contributing to food security and nutrition for all, page 38,, published 2016, accessed November 17, 2016.

[9] Belhabib, Dyhia, et al, Beyond the unseen: a first collaborative model towards estimating illegal, unreported, and unregulated catches off Senegal, Working Paper #2014-05, University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre,, accessed November 7, 2016.

[10] Mediaprod, Voices from African Artisanal Fishers, January 2016,, accessed January 6, 2017.

[11] COMFISH Plus Program Description. For the sake of simplicity, this document sometimes uses “COMFISH” to refer to both the original and follow-on projects.


Friday, February 15, 2019 - 3:45am

Last updated: April 04, 2019