The consequences of the fishmeal and fish oil industry on Senegal’s food security

Story from Aliou Sall, compiled by Nova Almine

In the coastal nation of Senegal, a complex interplay between global market demands and local food security is unfolding. Despite an increase in fish landings, the proliferation of the fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) industry, driven by the insatiable global appetite for products like supermarket salmon, is not only failing to alleviate national food insecurity but is exacerbating it.


Research about ‘Dried up Fish’ sheds light on how FMFO industry’s competition with local dried fish processors for small pelagic fish – a dietary staple for the impoverished – is “resulting in decreased availability and increased prices of locally consumed fish” (Wolfert, 2024). This situation is affecting traditional sectors like Ketiakh processors, who play a crucial role in ensuring food security by providing affordable protein and income opportunities within local and sub-regional markets.

Posters used for the campaign to stop trawling small pelagic in Senegal. The concerns include competition in marine and coastal areas, involving (1) challenges from industrial fishing and extractive industries over resource access, and (2) the loss of land access rights in coastal zones. Credits: Aliou Sall

The shift of FMFO factories from using fish discards to targeting edible and small pelagic fish for production has sparked direct competition with these local processors. Fueled by global demand and government policies favouring FMFO production, this competition has drastically reduced access to vital fish stock for local processors, leading to diminished production and heightened prices.


Amidst these challenges, women-led organizations like Diambari Sine are leading the resistance against industrial overfishing and the encroachment of fishmeal factories. These women, vital to the artisanal processing and marketing of fish, are not only fighting to preserve their cultural heritage but also “advocating for sustainable fishing practices and resist detrimental industrial activites, to preserve their maritime culture and ensure sustainable fisheries management” (Sall, 2024).

This poster was used to empower communities by advocating to end industrial trawling because ‘access to fish and land equals access to Life’. Credits to: Aliou Sall

Their struggle highlights a broader fight for ‘Blue Justice’ – a concept emphasizing equitable access to marine resources and the need for policy reforms that prioritize the nutritional needs and economic welfare of local communities over industrial interests. However, this fight is challenged by the financial and political might of the industrial fishing sector, which continues to deplete key fish stocks like Sardinella, a type of fish that is critical to local diets and economies.

Balancing Blue economy and Blue Justice to secure livelihoods through equal access to fish and land. Credits to: Aliou Sall

The consequences of these dynamics are affecting food security not just in Senegal but across West Africa. The hidden costs of consumer choices in faraway markets like Europe are starkly evident in the rising local fish prices and the growing threat of poverty and food insecurity in regions like Mauritania, Senegal, and Gambia (Heal et. Al, 2024).


Addressing this complex issue requires a multi-faceted approach, including the development of integrated information systems for policymaking, the redirection of fish landings towards local use, support for local processing infrastructure, and stringent enforcement against the harmful practices of the FMFO industry. Moreover, there is a critical need for international cooperation to ensure sustainable practices that can reconcile the demands of global markets with the imperatives of local food security and sustainable fishing practices.


As the world deals with challenges of ensuring food security for all, the situation in Senegal serves as a reminder of the unintended consequences of global consumption patterns on local economies and ecologies. It emphasises the urgent need for a re-evaluation of our global food systems, where the well-being of local communities and ecosystems is placed at the heart of international trade and policy decisions.

This video portraying women in artisanal processing and micro-fish farming was launched as part of the Social Justice Day ‘Blue Justice-Alert to Action’ Campaign on February 20th, 2024. It focuses on a local association of women processors in the fishing community of Hann, where women are the main tenants performing an important social and economic function. However, they are affected by poor fisheries governance and bad decision-making, which has led to the plundering of small pelagic stocks on which these women depend. Visit the video link to learn more.


Wolfert, S. A. M. 2023. Dried up fish: how and why the Senegal-based fishmeal and fishoil industry affects the contributions of dried fish processors to food security in Senegal. Master’s Thesis.


Wolfert, S. A. M. 2023. Dried up fish flows: how and why the Senegal-based fishmeal and fish oil industry affects the contributions of Ketiakh producers to food security in Senegal.


Sall, Aliou. 2024. Diambari Sine: Women’s fish processing organization leads the resistance against industrial fisheries and fishmeal factories in Senegal. The Ocean Defenders Project. Online at


Heal, Al., Rodgers, L., Williams, J., de la Torre Arenas, I., Clark, D., Thompson, J., and E.C.M. Vadel. 2024. The hidden cost of your supermarket salmon: Fish sold by major retailers in Europe is harming food security in West Africa. Online at:


Artisanal processors demanding Blue Justice in the fishing community of Hann. YouTube video produced by Aliou Sall and team. Online at: