Learning a new trade to save sharks in Senegal

Thirty-five women from Senegal took part in a workshop this June aimed to reduce the trade in endangered shark meat.

Workshop participants training in sustainable methods of processing West African pelagic fish.

The training is part of a community-based conservation project funded by IUCN’s Sir Peter Scott Fund and partner Fondation Ensemble, launched to the public in May, 2008.

Senegalese women have traditionally been employed in shark meat processing. But the over-exploitation of shark stocks, largely to meet the demand for shark fins in Asia, has resulted in the disappearance of some species from the region.

The workshop took place over two days (13th and 14th June), at a fish processing site in Mballing, Senegal. Participants were appointed from six communities to learn new skills for their withdrawal from the unsustainable trade in endangered shark species.

Within West Africa there is high demand for processed pelagic fish, such as the abundant Sardinella, which is traditionally used in cooking and is affordable to the poorest in the community. The training sessions focused on the production of salt dried and smoked Sardinella as a commercially viable alternative to shark meat, supported by the Senegal Ministry of Fisheries.

New technologies in fish processing were also taught to improve the efficiency and hygiene standards adopted by the participants. Project leader Dr. Mika Diop noted that the women were very impressed by their new found skills and were keen to establish new trade networks in their home communities.

By supporting the withdrawal of women from shark meat processing, the project hopes to provide long-term benefits to both local livelihoods and marine biodiversity in West Africa.

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