Mauritania is one of the countries that will take part to the Digital Seafood Trade Show, the first world exhibition of the seafood industry to be held entirely online: on May 20-21, using a dedicated digital platform, participants will be able to take part to thematic conferences, visit virtual exhibition stands, meet buyers, and attend events and cooking shows just as they would do at a normal trade show.
The exhibition, which will be completely carbon neutral, is organized by Assoittica Italia, the Italian seafood industry association, that represents more than 100 member companies. The goal of the exhibition is to give companies “an important opportunity to open up to new markets, to increment their visibility and create new trade partnerships, leading the industry toward new frontiers”, said Giuseppe Palma, Secretary General of Assoittica Italia. The organizers expect companies and buyers from more than 40 countries to join the fair, together with public authorities and seafood industry associations. It will be an important opportunity also to promote Made in Italy products.
Among them, there will be seventeen Mauritanian fishing companies, forming part of the Fédération de pêche des mareyeurs exportateurs, distributeurs et collecteurs (FPMEDC), a local union that represents most of the small-scale fishing industry of the country and aims at increasing the income of local fishermen while promoting responsible and eco-friendly fishing techniques. In fact, while the seafood industry represents a significant part of the economy of Mauritania as well as an important source of income for local communities, traditional small-scale fishing is threatened by the invasive and predatory behavior of foreign companies.
On the one hand, the unique climatic system makes Mauritania one of the most productive fishery coasts in the world. The seafood industry has been constantly growing over the past ten years. Between 2008 and 2018, the value of fish exports rose from $350million to almost $1b. Over the same period, the number of employees in the industry went from 34000 to 60000. The economic capital city of Nouadhibou has become the industry headquarter because of its geographic positioning.
In order to fully realize Nouadhibou’s potential, in 2013 the Government of Mauritania created the Nouadhibou Free Zone, with the objective of attracting foreign direct investments to bridge the infrastructure gap and develop a value-added fishery hub. In fact, despite the positive trend shown by the industry, Mauritania still lacks proper infrastructure, such as warehousing and storage sites.
On the other hand, however, the Mauritanian sea is regularly looted by foreign companies making use of illegal and invasive fishing methods. The phenomenon of “ocean-grabbing”, as the 2017 report by Greenpeace “Hope in West Africa ship tour” demonstrated, is a problem for many West African countries. Foreign fishing fleets take advantage of the lack of transparency regarding the attribution of fishing licenses, as well as poor monitoring and absence of coordination at national and regional level, including in legislation, to violate rules regarding fishing methods and quotas. This irresponsible behavior damages marine ecosystems and may pave the way for more illegal activities in the area.