Small-scale fishing in Mauritania is threatened by a perverse system: industrial fleets, mostly foreign, are plundering its fish-rich waters, causing serious problems for local communities. In 2006 Mauritania sold fishing rights to the European Union in exchange for a reduction in its public debt, giving up the fight against overfishing and encouraging a new form of colonialism. The industrial fishing boats hire and fund the local fishermen and the fish is frozen and taken to North Africa or Europe for processing. The damage has been enormous. Almost 50% of mullet stocks are at risk and the fish-processing activities, including bottarga production, traditionally practiced by the Imraguen women have been abandoned.
Few are able to continue making a living. The local NGO Mauritanie 2000 is working with groups of women to try to preserve local knowledge, strengthen their technical skills and improve hygiene conditions. The producers buy mullet from fishermen, extract the eggs, rinse them, salt them and let them dry naturally, obtaining a traditional bottarga (from the Arab butarikh, salted fish eggs). The women also prepare tishtar (dried and finely chopped mullet fillet) and mullet oil.
Sel, in which 36 producers, mainly women, started to produce high-quality sea salt on the Baie de l’Etoile in Nouadhibou, who sell the salt to bottarga producers.
Nouadhibou and Nouakchott
Orbetello Fishermen (Slow Food Presidium)
Nedwa Moctar Nech
tel. + 222 22306973/36306973