Coastal communities in Morocco strive to preserve sustainable small-scale fishing

With 3500 kilometers of coast, Morocco has a strong tradition of maritime fisheries, but its waters are ever more threatened: industrial fishing is plundering the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

At the same time the markets are ridden with farmed and invasive species that have no connection with the local culture. On May 10, Slow Fish with guests from Morocco discussed how local communities can put truly sustainable development into action.

The Changing Role of Women in Coastal Villages

Latifah Dibe leads the Moroccan Association of Women from Tigri, which focuses on sustainable harvesting of mussels and seashells in the province of Tiznit, in the south of Morocco. In a small seaside village overlooking rocky cliffs, women gather seafood using a centuries-old traditional mussel harvesting methods. Their job can be dangerous, as the Atlantic Ocean has strong currents. The association, which was created a few years ago, has already made some progress in terms of better coordinating the womens’ work and gaining recognition of the womens’ role in the community.

“The mussels that are harvested are the key ingredient in household diets; our organization helps to promote the sale and marketing of these traditional products. The Association aims to create the right context and conditions to ensure the women’s independence and autonomy thanks to their work harvesting products like mussels.”

The Association also plays a vital role in organizing the annual Tigri festival, which started several years ago and has become one of the most important gastro-cultural events in the area. It is dedicated to shellfish and artisan fishing, and raises awareness of the risks of irresponsible fishing.

Fatima Atanane coordinates a cooperative for women in the village of Douira. It is the first cooperative in Morocco that sells mussels in vacuumed packages. Historically, women in coastal villages used to harvest mussels for their families but their daily activities were not considered a job; even if the mussels were sold locally, albeit at very low prices. The cooperative tries to find new ways to preserve mussels, to introduce new methods of drying and cooking them, and finally to make the activity more lucrative by expanding their market, thus gaining more community recognition of their work.

Latifah Dibe, Fatima Atanane and Houssine Nibani together with Slow Food coordinator for Morocco, Nazarena Lanza

A Defender of Small-Scale Sustainable Fishing

Houssine Nibani could be called a true pioneer in Morocco. He is a president of AGIR, which was founded in 2008 to support Moroccan coastal conservation. AGIR works with over 3000 fishers across the country and pushes for sustainable development at the local and national levels.

“One of our main goals is to promote knowledge of ecosystems and best fishing practices. We try to raise awareness about the threats to our ecosystems, and we work with experts to create strategies to mitigate these threats.”

Nibani shared a few examples that AGIR has achieved over the years, one of which was to convince local municipalities not to throw their waste directly into the sea. Currently, the organization is actively involved in trying to raise awareness of the importance of small-scale sustainable fishing.

“Small-scale fishers are the victims of industrial fishing. We see many cases, where large boats fish in the areas where only small-scale fishers should be fishing. The nets produced by local small-scale fisher women are sometimes destroyed by these industrial trawling boats,” says Nibani, whose organization reports violations committed by industrial fishers at the national level. “It is important to do so because at the local level it is not possible to tackle such complicated issues.”

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