Deep investment in sea stocks

Mauritania’s fishing waters constitute a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), long regarded as among the richest in the world. Inevitably, fishing is one of the main pillars of the country’s economy, generating 50% of exports, 29% of budget revenues, and contributing around 12% to GDP. “The importance of fishing for the Mauritanian economy is considerable and is growing every year,” says Bâ Mamadou dit M’baré, the Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Economy.

As an essential building block in the Mauritian economy, the Ministry of Fisheries and the Maritime Economy is actively seeking to encourage sustainability in the fishing sector

The 1998 to 2001 strategy for the development of this sector led to action plans on conservatory measures and adjustment plans for fishing; the reinforcement of maritime surveillance and control; improvement of institutional, legislative, tax, and financial frameworks; actions on labor; improvement of the valuing and marketing system; and the development of small-scale fishing.

It is the latter which is of most importance to the government, given its evident advantages. On the investment level, small-scale fishing requires smaller outlays, more compatible with the self-financing capacities of the eventual users and the banking system. On the social level, it provides more jobs than industrial fishing, and to a broader range of people, including those with little or no schooling. Finally, it is the least destructive sub-sector for marine eco-systems and the least harmful to the environment, a subject given its due importance by the government. “These resources must be safeguarded for us and for future generations,” says Dr Bâ.

In November 2002, the government initiated a Plan of Installation and Development of Small-scale and Coastal Fishing (PADPAC). Over the past few years, the sector has seen tremendous expansion, with exponential growth in the number of vessels and the appearance of new processing outlets on land. Transport infrastructure projects are intrinsically linked to the fishing industry; the Nouakchott – Nouadhibou road, for instance, will facilitate access to the coast.

Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Economy
Director of IMROP

The Establishment of the Rest Bay Port (EPBR) was created in 1996 to manage the installations of the small-scale fishery port in Nouadhibou, which is the country’s economic capital. EPBR helps in the national struggle against poverty by creating a favorable environment for the development of small companies and private initiatives, focusing particularly on the more than 30,000 people who can find in the port a market for their work. As well as offering sanitary storage of products and safe harbor for small boats, the port collects statistical data relating to the industry.

The Autonomous Port of Nouadhibou (PAN) is also primarily a fishing port. With 700m of docks, five ice factories, and cold-storage capacity of 30,000 tonnes , the PAN handles more than 500,000 tonnes of fish products a year and is geared towards the large-scale side of the industry. Rehabilitation of the port is on the cards with an 82 foot extension project.

The National Federation of Fishing (FNP) aims to defend and represent the economic, industrial, social, and commercial interests of its members, who are most of the Mauritanian companies in the sector. As well as encouraging competition in all maritime activities and participating in training and the promotion of small-scale, inshore, and industrial fishing, the FNP realizes sector-based studies to encourage the development of projects in Mauritania’s interest. In particular, they are looking to develop the value-added aspects of the industry such as processing and packaging. Marketing of products aimed at foreign buyers is done by the SMCP, which exports around 40,000 tonnes of fish products every year to Asia and Europe.

Research activities, however, fall mainly to the Mauritanian Institute for Oceanographic and Fisheries Research (IMROP). Among its objectives are the preservation of the resource, a better integration of the fishery sector in the Mauritanian economy, and the conservation of the maritime environment. Every five years, IMROP brings together 80 specialists from around the world to study their findings.

“For years to come, the expansion of fishing in Mauritania will be made in qualitative terms because fish stocks are at the limit of fishing possibilities,” says IMROP’s Director, Mohamed M’Bareck Ould Souelim. This offers excellent opportunities for U.S. exporters of fishing, processing and packaging equipment and technologies. Mauritania could also be a good source for American fish importers, particularly of shrimp and lobster. The government supports improved management of the country’s fish resources, and strongly encourages foreign as well as local investment in this important sector. “We would like to see American promoters coming here as investors in capital and technology,” says Dr Bâ. “Their market is already established and if we produce in collaboration with them, they can be sure of the quality of our product,” he says.