Africa

Senegal seizes Russian vessel for 'illegal fishing'

A Russian ship seized in Dakar, Senegal (5 January 2014) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Senegal says its fishing resources are being pillaged

Senegal has seized a Russian vessel after accusing its sailors of fishing illegally in its waters.

Sixty-two Russians and 20 nationals from Guinea-Bissau were detained when the navy raided the trawler, Oleg Naydenov, Senegal's military said.

Russia has condemned the "crude and aggressive conduct of Senegalese troops", Russian state media reported.

West African governments are battling to curb illegal fishing, which is threatening fishing stocks.

The French military is helping Senegal to tackle the problem.

The Oleg Naydenov was a "repeat offender" which had been spotted by a French military plane, Fisheries Minister Haidar El-Ali said at a press conference.

Senegal was planning to adopt a decree that would allow the government to take ownership of foreign ships "that pillage our resources", he said.

Senegal could impose a fine of 200m CFA francs ($414,000; £253,000, 304,400 euros) for illegal fishing but it could be doubled for the Oleg Naydenov because it was a "repeat offender", Mr Ali said.

The minister said the US Agency for International Development estimated that Senegal lost about 150bn CFA francs a year because of illegal fishing by foreign trawlers.

"There are about 50 such ships operating off our coast, entering [Senegalese territorial waters] fraudulently from time to time. We will not allow this," Mr Ali said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on it was seeking explanations from Senegal over the "military action" taken against the trawler on Saturday.

In co-operation with a Russian fisheries agency official in Dakar, diplomats were "undertaking further steps aimed at the vessel's earliest release and departure", Reuters news agency quotes the ministry's statement as saying.

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