Breaking ground on illegal fishing in Senegal


Photo credit: Dyhia Belhabib


One of our PhD students Dyhia Belhabib headed a study that revealed catch numbers in Senegal have been misreported largely due to high levels of illegal fishing.

Belhabib’s research —a joint project with Sea Around Us and US Agency for International Development— found that the number of industrial catches is vastly underestimated.  She worked with the DPM, World Wildlife Fund and data from the U.S. Navy, in the study that began in March 2012. It was published earlier this month.

In effect, the study has increased Senegal’s awareness of illegal fishing vessels. Earlier this month, they arrested members of an illegal Russian vessel for fishing in Senegalese waters.

Belhabib’s report stated that official reports and fishers’ accounts document the presence of illegal vessels—which are thought to be a major cause of problems for Senegalese artisanal fisheries.

Belhabib noted that artisanal fisheries have increased in both time and space.

“They go out more often and travel further away,” she said.  “It’s been undetected for years.”

Senegalese artisanal fishing numbers have been reported at 80 per cent, but Belhabib’s research discovered the numbers are closer to half artisanal fishing and half industrial.

She stressed the importance of the findings, as they’ll help fishery decision-makers make more informed policy choices.

“These findings can help solve the problems of over-capacity in Senegalese waters,” she said.


You can read more about the study here:

See press on illegal fishing in Senegal here:

Scientific American Article Explores Catch Data Controversy

A recent study by Trevor Branch and colleagues asserted that the decline in the mean trophic index is no longer present in the global catch data. But does it really cast doubt on the depletion of big ocean species?

In an article published today at Scientific American, journalist Mike Orcutt explores how best to measure commercial fishing’s impact on ocean biodiversity. He discusses the findings of Brach et al. in light of the new study quantifying fisheries expansion. Orcutt reports:

Pauly says the new PLoS One paper “completely invalidates” Branch’s Nature paper because the authors failed to account for the spatial expansion described in the former. As fisheries move offshore, he says, they first target large fish high on the food web—just as they did closer to shore. “Hence, moving offshore will mask inshore declines in mean trophic levels.”

Read the full article here.

Photo: Tiny fish caught by a trawler off of Hong Kong by Stanley Shea/BLOOM.

Whale Watching: Worth a Lot

A new study by authors from the Fisheries Economics Research Unit and the Sea Around Us Project shows that whale watching is a booming industry and a good alternative to whaling. Based on ecological and socio-economic criteria, whale watching could generate an additional US$413 million in yearly revenue, supporting 5,700 jobs. Together with current global estimates, this would bring the total potential for the whale watching industry to over US$2.5 billion in yearly revenue and about 19,000 jobs around the world. The research was covered widely during the IWC meeting. Read, for instance, this piece at Discovery News.

Reference: A.M. Cisneros-Montemayor, U.R. Sumaila , K. Kaschner , D. Pauly (in press) The global potential for whale watching. Marine Policy.