Russia demands Senegal release fishing crew
Russia on Thursday demanded the immediate release of a trawler and its crew seized by Senegal for alleged illegal fishing off the country's coast, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
At a meeting with Senegal’s acting charge d’affaires, Russian diplomats made “a firm demand to the Senegalese authorities to immediately release the Russian fishing trawler, the Oleg Naydenov, and its crew,” spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told Rossiya 24 television.
He said that Senegal’s charge d’affaires, Mamadou Dieng, assured him Dakar would “make every possible effort to resolve the situation.”
Armed Senegalese naval officers on January 4 boarded the ship, which has a crew of Russian and Guinea Bissau nationals, off the country’s Atlantic coast, accusing it of fishing in Senegalese waters without a permit.
A spokesman for Russia’s fisheries agency, Alexander Savelyev, said on Thursday that the Russian-flagged ship was in the waters of Guinea Bissau when it was seized.
“You can say we are talking about piracy on a state level,” Savelyev told Rossiya 24.
Senegal plans to fine Russia about 600,000 euros ($800,000), its fisheries ministry said Sunday. The ship is being held under armed guard in Dakar and so far talks between the two sides have not reached a resolution.
Russian diplomats told Senegal that Moscow was “counting on a speedy resolution of the incident in the spirit of traditionally friendly Russian and Senegalese relations,” Lukashevich said.
Senegal has for years been battling to contain unauthorised fishing in its waters by foreign trawlers, blamed for depleting fish stocks, undermining the environment and endangering the livelihoods of local small-scale fishermen.
The east African country’s fisheries minister, Haidar El Ali, said at least three Russian trawlers had been caught fishing illegally in the last few days in Senegalese waters.
The spokesman for a union of Senegalese fishing industry workers, Adama Lam, added that the local industry suffered “aggressive interventions by ships from Russia, Ukraine and Belize.”
“These boats are repeat offenders,” Lam told reporters in Dakar.