An image from the documentary. Credit: Mareyeurs

How crisis in Senegal’s fishing sector drives migration to Europe

The documentary ‘Mareyeurs’ by director Matteo Raffaelli explores how exploitation of fish stocks in Senegal can drive young people to migrate to Europe.

The film, produced by Ocean Film in collaboration with HF4, tells the story of Ibrahima, a young trader specialized in wholesaling fresh fish products in Senegal, who is worried about the depletion of fish stocks and his diminishing income. It has been presented in France and in Italy.

Ibrahima’s dilemma

The documentary wants to tell Europeans that “if we don’t take steps to protect the environment and safeguard a primary asset such as fish stocks the result will be that over a million people from Senegal alone will want to move to Europe,” director Raffaelli told ANSAmed.

“Francesco Congiu (the film’s producer) introduced me to the crisis in the fishing sector in Senegal,” the director said. The idea of the documentary came about “to tell of a world that is known only to very few people”, he added.

In Senegal Raffaelli met Ibrahima. “A wife, a daughter, a house, a job: a normal life, that deserved to be made known,” he said. Instead of making a documentary on intensive fishing, “I decided it was more interesting to focus on the mareyeurs (wholesalers of fresh fish products), who are a backbone of Senegalese society”. Raffaelli believes it is wrong to separate the issue of migration from that of sustainable resource use.

“Paying more for a product in Europe but with the certainty that it comes from an artisanal industry means that the people working in that industry are ensured survival,” he said. It is precisely the break-up of this industry that drives Ibrahima to consider leaving.

“Fish stocks have fallen by 80 percent over the last 10 years for two essential reasons: intensive fishing and pollution. Ibrahima, a young man with a family, experiences this lack of products for himself. So it is obvious, as it often is for us Europeans, that the choice is to find somewhere for a better life,” Raffaelli says.

Ethical consumption against migration

Ibrahima’s future remains uncertain. The documentary sets out to narrate not the outcome of his adventure but “his life path”, including “the encounter with his relatives and friends, who moreover advise him not to leave” because life is tough in Europe and the journey can be dangerous. ‘Mareyeurs’ is not an exposé of the emergency aspect of migration, but “the story of the dilemma of someone who is set to lose something should they leave”.

Raffaelli believes it is important to focus not on the differences between Africa and Europe but on “the affinities, through the normal stories of people who do not want to leave their home countries. Research shows that a quality African product guarantees economic stability, which is the basic element for slowing migration flows.”


Watch trailer of ‘Mareyeurs’:

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