Yesterday’s conference, “Mare Nostrum: Immigrant Communities Tell Their Tales” was more like a conversation among acquaintances; a chance to exchange experiences and learn from one another, as it so often happens when comparing cultures. Despite the hustle and bustle of the Fish Market of Genoa, the audience fell silent when Maria Bendezu, a Peruvian poet of a local association called G.I.A.N., for Gruppo Italiani Amici della Natura, recited a poem. The poem was dedicated to Africa, historically a land of emigration, the subject of the conference.
As fully grown adults now established in Genoa and other parts of Liguria, people such as Demba Ndiaye, president of the cultural association Mboolo, and Cheikh Guisse were there to denounce the situation of small-scale fishers in Senegal. “Fishing has always been the main economic resource of Senegal, so much so that the word fishing in Wolof language means ‘our boat’.
Now, however, local communities are disappearing. They are unable to compete with foreign fleets, such as those of the Chinese. “Like many African coastal areas, one can witness the certain helplessness that results from “ocean grabbing”, a phenomenon central to the Water Workshops of Slow Fish 2015. Large, foreign companies are buying fishing rights from governments for what can be a period of many years and therefore are legally authorized to fish in these waters. The results are dramatic in that the local economy and the local habitats are inarguably destroyed. “Without the means to survive, young people are often forced to migrate and try their luck elsewhere,” Demba said. “If you only earn €2 a day and have a family to support, your only alternative is to try harder somewhere else!”
George Costache became a fisherman in Camogli nine years ago. Although he defines himself a “man of the earth” he also finds “great satisfaction from the world of the sea. I hope to buy my own boat to be able to do my work in a more independent and profitable way, thanks to the support of the Cooperative Fishermen of Camogli, which practices sustainable fishing. “He adds: “No doubt my love for fishing has grown in Camogli also because I personally have not had problems related to discrimination.”
Article originally published by Slow Food Italia
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