Key figures: 

EEZ: 180,895 km2

Catches: 425,002 t

Artisanal fleet: 12,624 boats

Motorized canoes: 85%

Employment: 220 000                 

Consumption of fisheries products: 29 kg/hab/yr

Exports:  194.61 billion CFA F

Share in exports: 20.87%

Share in GDP: 3.2%

Fisheries context

The population of Senegal was estimated in 2013 at 14.13 million inhabitants with a relatively high annual demographic growth rate of 3% and a life expectancy of 63.4 years. About 50% of this population lives in urban areas. The country covers a surface area of 196,700 km2 and has a population density of 75 inhabitants per square kilometre.

In 1976, Senegal decided in like manner as many coastal States to unilaterally extend its jurisdiction over waters up to 200 nautical miles from its coast. With the ratification of the Convention on the Law of the Sea pursuant to Law nr. 84-67 of 16 August 1984, Senegal effectively extended its EEZ to 200 nautical miles. Senegal has 718 km of coastline and its continental shelf spreads over 23,800 km2.

Senegal’s economy was for a long time dependent on groundnuts and phosphate. With successive years of drought and the deterioration of trade terms following the oil crisis, fisheries became a predominant sector highly integrated with the national economy.

Subsequent to the decline of agriculture and livestock-breeding, traditional providers of animal and plant protein, fisheries has become a pillar of the Government’s food security policy covering nearly 75% of animal protein needs of Senegalese populations (see 2007 and 2009 Economic and Social Situation of Senegal; the 2013-2017 National economic and social development strategy; and the 2013-2015 Economic and Social Policy Paper). In light of the rising cost of meat, fish is becoming the main staple of low-income local populations.

Fisheries currently generates about 63,000 direct jobs (fishers) for Senegalese nationals of which 94% are provided by the artisanal fisheries sector. Fisheries also creates numerous jobs in related sectors and employs about 15% of the Senegalese labour force, i.e. approximately 600,000 people, thereby largely contributing to reducing unemployment (see monography on fisheries and forestry, and the 2007 accelerated growth strategy – fisheries and aquaculture cluster).

Furthermore, authorities attach particular importance to the fisheries sector in order to improve the balance of trade which has been in chronic deficit (see Law 95-34 of 21 December 1994 establishing the status of free export companies). From 1986, fisheries became the largest exporting sector surpassing groundnut products and phosphates combined and makes up for more than a third of the value of foreign sales. In 2014, Senegalese exports exceeded 177 billion CFA francs for a volume of 150,909 tons.

For an overall sales figure of approximately 278 billion CFA francs, fisheries generates value added estimated at 80 billion CFA francs, 60% of which relate to catches and 40% to the processing sub-sector, representing 11% of primary GDP and 3.2% of total GDP.

The Senegalese maritime zone is characterized by its high biological diversity. Exploited resources comprise four groups (coastal and deep-sea pelagics, coastal and deep-sea demersals) with varying bio-ecological characteristics and socio-economic importance.

Fisheries plays a leading role in the national economy providing foreign currency (about 200 billion CFA francs of revenue is generated each year, i.e. 30% of total export earnings), creating jobs (about 600,000 people representing 15% of the active population) and supplying animal protein (75% of the population’s requirements is satisfied). These economic and social performances are due in large part to the dynamism of the artisanal fishing sub-sector which accounts for more than 80% of the national production (350,000 tons).

Institutional framework

The sector is currently controlled by the Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime Economy. The legislation which governed the sector prior to 2015 is Law nr. 98-32 of 14 April 1998 on the Code of Maritime Fisheries as well as Decree 98-498 which determined the implementing arrangements (also refer to the Official Bulletin of Senegal - compendium of laws relating to the fisheries sector). From August 2015, Law nr. 2015-18 of 13 July 2015 on the Code of Maritime Fisheries now governs the sector.

The Department of Maritime Fisheries (DPM), the Department of Fisheries Processing Industries (DITP), the Department of Fisheries Protection and Surveillance (DPSP), the Department of Continental Fisheries (DPC), the Department of Merchant Shipping (DMM), and the Department of Marine Resources Management and Exploitation (DGEFM) are the six technical departments of the fisheries sector. Regional and departmental fisheries services and fisheries surveillance structures are decentralized in all administrative regions of the country.

Furthermore, the Ministry relies on the Dakar-Thiaroye Centre for Oceanographic Research (CRODT) for scientific research, the Studies and Planning Unit (CEP) for organization and planning, and on the National Maritime Fisheries Advisory Committee to review development plans, make proposals and render opinions.

Local councils on artisanal maritime fisheries receive support from the Ministry in charge of fisheries and from development partners to cover their operating expenses, and are in charge, inter alia, of organizing and educating fishers as well as artisanal fisheries stakeholders in their localities, and making development-related proposals.

The Food Technology Institute (ITA) is in charge of conducting research on improving fish processing and packaging techniques.

The National agricultural credit fund (CNCAS) and the Economic promotion fund (FPE) as well as commercial banks also finance the sector.

The National Agency for Maritime Affairs (ANAM), under the supervision of the Department of Merchant Shipping and the Department of Ports and Inland Maritime Transport, is in charge of the administrative management of vessels and seafarers. It participates in policing maritime navigation. Law nr. 2002-22 of 16 August 2002 governs merchant shipping and Decree nr. 2004-283 of 5 March 2004 determines the implementing arrangements.

The High Authority in charge of coordinating maritime security, maritime safety and marine environmental protection (HASSMAR) is an autonomous administrative structure with operational duties. It is a platform for coordinating emergency interventions at sea, rivers and within port perimeters, and managing interaction between the various administrations involved in the State’s action at sea.

The fisheries and aquaculture policy paper restates the objectives of the sector within the context of the strategic guidelines of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), which include: (i) sustainable management and restoration of fisheries resources; (ii) satisfaction of the national demand; (iii) optimal use of resources; (iv) qualification of professionals in the sector; and (v) availability for professionals in the sector of financial instruments capable of meeting their investment and operational needs under conditions which ensure the financial sustainability of fisheries activities (see also the recommendations of the Presidential Council on Fisheries – 2008).

State of the resources

Estimates from the scientific campaigns conducted by CRODT in 2015 reveal an increase in the biomass of small coastal pelagics, i.e. sardinella, horse mackerels, mackerels and other related taxa (836,560 tons) in comparison to the previous campaign conducted by the Itaf Dème oceanographic vessel (November 2008). Short-bodied sardinella, estimated at 340,000 tons account for most of this biomass (41%). They are mainly found in the Casamance. The biomass of golden sardinella, estimated at 236,900 tons and mainly found near the Petite Côte and to the North, has clearly increased in comparison to 2012 estimates (57,000 tons). However, with the exception of the Sardina S. Pilchardus which is not fully exploited, most coastal pelagic stocks in North-West Africa such as the short-bodied and golden sardinella, horse mackerels, anchovies and ethmalosa are over-exploited, i.e. 5 out of the 6 major stocks studied during the last CECAF working group meeting held in Casablanca, Morocco.

Deep-sea pelagic stocks managed in the Atlantic Ocean (ICCAT) also show contrasting situations from over-exploited (blue marlin, sailfish and especially yellowfin tuna) to fully exploited or even under-exploited (swordfish with a national quota of 250 tons for the Northern stock and 300 tons for the Southern stock, skipjack tuna) as well as a situation of maintaining or restoring fish stocks (bigeye tuna).

The biomass of coastal demersal resources (grouper, red mullet, octopus, common sea bream, bluespotted sea bream, sea bream, nile perch, cuttle-fish) is estimated at 95,120 tons during the cold season compared to 107,295 tons during the hot season (CRODT 2015). The meeting of the Working Group on the assessment of the main demersal stocks exploited in Senegal held in Dakar within the framework of the ADUPES programme (2 to 6 February 2015) highlighted the following: (i) fully exploited to slightly over-exploited (sea bream, bluespotted sea bream, white shrimp); (ii) fully exploited for the prawn stock characterized by an inter-annual variability of its abundance with a downward trend and an MSY of 3,260 tons; (iii) under/fully exploited (red mullet); (iv) over-exploited for the octopus stock characterized by a high year-to-year variability of catches, and higher catches in artisanal fisheries; (v) highly over-exploited (thiof); and (vi) decrease in the abundance of certain stocks, in particular thiof (epinephelus aeneus), thiékem and coastal shrimp.


Fisheries resources in Senegalese waters are exploited through artisanal (maritime and continental), semi-industrial and industrial fisheries. Artisanal fisheries is the predominant sub-sector in terms of landing: it accounts for 90% of all landings.

Artisanal fisheries

It is practiced by several fishing communities using about twenty different fishing techniques based on strategies which vary depending on biological and socio-economic factors. The Senegalese fleet of fishing boats is by far the largest in the sub-region. The most recent national survey conducted in 2015 within the context of the WARFP identified 19,009 fishing units of which 90% were motorized. Artisanal fisheries is exclusively practiced by Senegalese.

In artisanal fisheries, fishing effort corresponds to the number of trips. The fishing effort of the artisanal fleet was relatively stable during the 1997-2007 period. It revolved around 1,000,000 trips per year. The highest number was observed in 2,000 with 1,118,943 trips. This fishing effort is largely dominated by motorized canoes using lines and drag nets (between 73% and 81% of the total effort).

Industrial fisheries

Senegalese industrial fishing vessels can be categorized in two main components: trawlers and tuna boats. In 2015, there were 104 trawlers and 8 tuna boats.

A total of 151 vessels were identified in 2015 flying national and foreign flags.

Landings of the national fleet of trawlers are more significant than those of other components. With an average of 37,358 tons per year over the 2004-2014 period, national trawlers account for 80.7% of the industrial production. However, despite the diversity of species caught, landings of this national fleet were globally on a downward trend during the period. The sardinella fleet and foreign trawlers fishing along the coast or in high seas record average annual landings of about 3,000 tons. Production of these three industrial fishing sub-sectors was marked by a very sharp fall over the past years except in 2014 when production reached its highest value. 

Regarding the foreign fleet, the termination of fishing agreements in 2006 resulted in virtually negligible landings.

Semi-industrial fishing focuses on merely one component, i.e. sardine fishing. Varying between 3 and 5 units, the fleet is composed of 15 to 28 m long small seine boats with limited autonomy, which make daily trips.

Access to resources

Senegal signed a fishing agreement with the European Union in 1979 and this agreement has been renewed 17 times. In 2014, Senegal signed a fisheries partnership agreement with the EU relating to tuna and hake for a period of 5 years.

A bilateral fishing agreement with Mauritania allow approximately 300 Senegalese canoes to fish in Mauritanian waters; mainly small pelagics within a quota of 50,000 tons. This agreement is subject to the condition that 6% of catches are landed in Mauritania. Senegal signed bilateral access agreements with other countries in the sub-region, in particular with Guinea-Bissau and a reciprocity agreement with Cabo Verde.