Artisanal fishers have many demands to their government, but they are also taking initiatives to address tricky challenges.
At times when the catches are huge, but when there is a lack of buyers, fish gets wasted. That was the situation for years in Mauritania. “Before 1998, we only used to have the local market for the small pelagic. It was a very limited market and, at times, the catches were huge. So there was much waste. We always had tons of unsold fish thrown away”, remembers Djibril Diabaté, member of the FNP South Section.
The fishermen decided to react and set up a Committee on fishing effort management in 1998. “The Committee’s role was to regulate the market to ensure that the production meets only the market needs”, explains Djibril Diabaté. “Fishermen had to split into three groups; each group would go fishing one day out of three. And in case the demand increases, we would make two groups. It was both a way of preserving the resources and valuing our catches”, he adds.
This initiative requested and implemented by the fishermen themselves, helped to revive the pelagic production market. “At the beginning, the administration thought that this system was only so that we were able to sell fish at higher prices. Fortunately, the administration has now realised that the effect was also to organize the fishermen for fishing responsibly”, confides Abdoul Karim Diène, one of the fishermen who took this initiative.
In the long run, the Committee on fishing effort management became the purse seines cooperative. “It is the organizational system that changed, but the objective remains unchanged. The priority for selling catches is always given to the local market consumption, and then to the frozen products market. Selling for fishmeal comes as a last resort, when we have no longer any alternative for the catches”, explains Djibril Diabaté.