A court in Senegal has dismissed a lawsuit by a fishermen’s collective against a fishmeal factory they had accused of polluting their village and destroying their livelihoods.

Dozens of people filtered into the Thies courthouse Thursday to hear the judge’s decision.

The lawsuit, filed by the Taxawu Cayar Collective against the Touba Proteine Marine fishmeal factory, accused the factory of polluting the town of Cayar’s air, soil and water.

The collective had asked for the temporary closure of the factory based on urgency.

During the legal proceedings, the collective presented video footage of the factory’s truck dumping fish waste into Cayar’s lake. An independent laboratory analysis revealed high levels of toxic metals in the lake, which was also found in the town’s tap water.

The collective is now deciding whether to appeal the decision or to bring forward new litigation that would permanently shut down the plant.

“We will pursue all possible legal avenues while respecting the laws of this country, said Alle Sy, a member of the fisherman’s collective. “We will never give up, as this is a battle close to our hearts.”

Boubacar Cisse, the lawyer for the fishmeal factory, formerly known as Barna Senegal, said the factory plans to take action against the collective.

“He says the factory is more than 3 km away from Cayar, so how could a business like that pollute the air and make it unbreathable?” asked Cisse. “Obviously, Barna Senegal will retaliate against these people for having discredited the factory and tarnishing its image.”

The factory is one of at least a half dozen fishmeal plants operating in Senegal.

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