Media Training in Senegal Highlights Challenges, Offers Guidance for Covering Fisheries

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a growing threat to the world’s oceans and the communities that depend on artisanal fishing for their livelihoods. Yet it remains a complex theme for journalists to cover.

To better aid them in this task, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network held a media training workshop in Senegal in early October so reporters from four coastal fishing towns could gather content for stories on IUU fishing in harbors, landing spots and other environments that are difficult for them to access. Part of EJN’s West Africa Fisheries Journalism project, the workshop also aimed to improve communication between the media and government officials and scientists and encouraged attendees to apply for future EJN story grants.

The workshop took place in the coastal town of Saly, Mbour, in partnership with local journalist network Groupe Recherche Environment Press, the Union National des Pecheurs Artisanaux du Senegal, which represents fishing communities in the Mbour region, and the Federation des Gie Bokk Liguey Mbaling, which represents women fisherfolk.

Journalists gather around a woman seated on a beach
Workshop participants interview a fisherwoman about the impact of overfishing in Senegal.

Among the topics the workshop covered were the under-reported role of women in fisheries, the state of Senegalese fishing stocks, the impact of oil and gas excavation on artisanal fisherfolk and the challenges scientists, policymakers and journalists face in communicating with each other.

Nineteen journalists attended the three-day workshop where they heard presentations from 10 Senegalese experts and received guidance from two trainers on how to maintain balance, report from the field, produce engaging fisheries-based stories, use sources and approach an investigative story.

With the participation of high-profile representatives from the fisheries ministry and the center for scientific research, the workshop was able to address some of the key communication issues hampering fisheries journalism, such as a lack of government communication on issues or positions, a lack of scientific and policy background for journalists and a lack of access to experts as well as accurate statistics.

It also allowed the journalists in attendance to share information on some of the challenges they face in carrying out investigations on sensitive topics, such as payment expected for covering certain topics. And it exposed a shortage of female journalists covering this issue – of the 19 attendees, only three were women.

A field trip provided the reporters with “unprecedented access” to the Mbour fishing community and was a good opportunity for local fisherfolk to engage with journalists and communicate their concerns, said Project Manager Mona Samari.

In the end, attendees produced several stories, including one that was republished in seven different outlets. The journalists said they were interested in learning more about fishery access agreements, the shark trade, women fisherfolk and the impact of oil and gas exploration. Yet access to information, stats and spokespeople remains a problem, said Samari, who suggested developing a manual to aid them.

“Overfishing is a major challenge of our time and the impacts on livelihoods are real,” said Amady Khalilou Diémé, a workshop participant and reporter with Génération FM based in Ziguinchor, Senegal. “From the workshop, I learned how to plan a fishing report, conduct an investigation, and [understand] the fish species in Senegal. Not only I am more sensitive to this critical issue, but I am now regularly engaging my audience on fishing-related issues. It may still be early, but what I can say is that the affected populations are increasingly aware of the issues surrounding overfishing and through my radio programs, they have an opportunity to voice their views and perspective.”

The West Africa Fisheries Journalism project is a two-year effort by EJN to work with journalists in the region and help them improve their coverage of IUU fishing, which is rampant in this part of the continent. The project has provided story grants to journalists in both Anglophone and Francophone West Africa, carried out journalism training workshops in Ghana and now Senegal, and has sought to build and support local networks of journalists covering fisheries and related issues.

(Banner image: Fishing boats lined up on the beach in Kayar, Senegal. Credit: Wikipedia)