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AS IT IS - Senegal, Sea Shepherd Campaign Against Illegal Fishing

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Sea Shepherd is helping to monitor Senegal's 700 meters long coastline. (Sea Shepherd)
Sea Shepherd is helping to monitor Senegal's 700 meters long coastline. (Sea Shepherd)

The government of Senegal and the organization Sea Shepherd have launched a campaign against illegal fishing along the country's coast. The nonprofit group is helping to prevent the poaching of hundreds of thousands of tons of tuna, swordfish and sharks each year.

People call the program "Sunu Gaal." That is a local term meaning "my canoe." The Sea Shepherd is providing a boat with a crew trained to help catch poachers. Senegalese naval ships are also involved in the campaign.

Lamia Essemlali is leading Sea Shepherd's effort to help guard the Senegalese coast.

"What we are doing is documenting illegal vessels and reporting to the Navy. And right now the next stage is to have the officials who are on board with us to be able to board those vessels and to check into whether they are complying."

Some crews use nets and other equipment to hide the names of their ships. Ms. Essemlali said poaching vessels recently have been flying the Senegalese flag. Others ships do have the required documents. But she said they still may be breaking international and Senegalese law.

She said her group's increased guarding of the waters has been effective.

"We have a good network of informants that can help us target the illegal fishing vessels. Now they are more careful because the word came out that Senegal is trying to stop that illegal fishing."

She said poachers used to catch fish in daylight. But she said they are being more careful now. They poach at night, and flee if they think they are being followed.

"They are more cautious. They stand behind the border and they come at night and they just run away across the border when they feel they are being followed."

The Sea Shepherd official said the campaign also means to educate buyers of fish in industrial countries. She said they should know that the food they eat comes from an area that depends on legal exports of fish to make money and feed people.

Health experts estimate that fish provide more than 66 percent of animal protein eaten in West Africa. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says fisheries and linked industries provide 25 percent of all employment in West Africa.

Other numbers show there are hundreds of thousands of jobs related to fish in Senegal, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

European Union rules have made it easier to find out where fish are caught. Ships and governments that do not cooperate may be barred from the waters. Reports say three countries right now could face such restrictions. Eight other nations have been asked to fix their problems or face limitations on their seafood exports to the E.U.

I'm Christopher Cruise.

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