Japanese volunteer at experimental garden using fertilizer from fish stocks
It is one of the most colorful and exciting sites along Africa's vast coastline—the return of the local fishing fleets.
In the Senegalese town of Mbour between 1,000 and 2,000 long-stemmed, colorfully painted pirogues ride in the gentle swells after a day at sea.
Men in yellow oilskins or shorts and tee shirts wade urgently to and fro balancing buckets of octopus, mackerel, sea bream, grouper and conch. Women in swirling costumes and headdress wait to haggle and then sell the catch.
One man squats on the beach expertly slicing off the fins of small sharks. Others dry fish on large racks open to the blistering sun.
The bustle masks an industry in crisis. As in similar cases around the world, local fishing grounds have been brutally exploited by foreign mother ships and by local fishermen trying to feed burgeoning populations and who often ignore attempts to curb excessive fishing.
Japanese volunteer discusses day’s fish catch
Stocks have dwindled alarmingly, fish prices in local markets soared and once thriving communities went into decline.
JICA personnel, experts and volunteers have been working for several years in fishing communities along the Senegal coast, and in other African countries, on a variety of projects to stabilize the situation.
Approaches include modifying the traditional top-down approach to fisheries management to place more emphasis on local community participation; projects to monitor and stabilize fish stocks; improving fishing techniques; the creation of fish stock data bases and the exploitation of the fish harvest in new ways to promote local income-generating activities.
"In the late 1990s things started getting worse and worse," Mbaye Seck a leader of the fishing community in the seaside town of Joel said. "The fish suddenly became smaller and fewer. We couldn't send our children to school. They had to become fishermen, like their fathers. They couldn't do anything else. We defaulted on loans. We had no future."
Japanese experts and officials, however, have noted several innovations in various projects.
Last year, for the first time, Joel fishermen stopped activity for one month to protect the spawning season. Experiments have been conducted to find the best size fish hooks for particular species.
Through continuous training fishermen have been encouraged not only to participate directly in establishing fishing guidelines but also to enforce them.
Income generating projects include the production of fertilizer from fish scale and waste.
In Mbour town 28-year-old volunteer Mitsuhiro Kunimine, a graduate of Tokyo University, is using both the fish fertilizer and algae in an experimental village garden to grow vegetables.
The fishing fleet
He visits the waterfront and surrounding communities regularly. He discusses daily issues and helps sensitize families to the importance of improving their diet with a greater variety of vegetables. He also monitors fish stocks and has begun building a data base for future research.
Fishermen say things are improving slowly. "There were three years when the harvest in octopus was very bad. This year it was good," said one fisherman in Joel.
In neighboring Nianing, local management committee president Raphael Ndour said: "Yesterday, everyone did what they wanted. It was a disaster. Today, we are cooperating."
He added, "The stocks are improving. Women sell their fish more quickly and can make a better profit. And we are sending our children to school again."