afrol News, 6 June - The construction work of a new artisanal fishing harbour in Mauritania's second city Nouadhibou was inaugurated this week. The main income of the region origins in the rich Mauritanian fisheries, although the fishing grounds are rapidly depleted by overfishing.
The 3 billion ouguiya (11.5 million euro) project will provide Nouadhibou - placed between the Western Sahara border and the Banc d'Arguin national park - with a new quay to receive the catch of the many artisanal fishermen, providing the basic income of most Nouadhibou families.
The project also includes the construction of a fish market close to the quay, in addition to warehouses and administrative buildings. The complex will also be provided with necessary equipment such as isothermal packing boxes and ice production facilities. Finally, the project includes the construction of fences protecting against shifting sand in this Saharan sand desert zone.
The Mauritanian news agency AMI reported that Mauritanian Fisheries Minister Ahmedou Ould Ahmedou undertook the official inauguration of the project, laying down the foundation stone of the quay. The Minister on the same day laid down the foundation stone of the National School of Maritime Teaching and Fishing in Nouadhibou, underlining the importance given to the fisheries in the development of the town.
The government project was partly financed by Japan, one of the foreign nations fishing in Mauritanian waters. The Japanese ambassador, who attended the inauguration, promised that Japan would transfer its advanced technologies to aid the further development of the Mauritanian fishing industry.
Mauritania's fishing industry started only 25 years ago, when the market for copper and iron collapsed and a severe drought shattered agriculture, leaving the country desperate for revenue. In the last 45 years, foreign vessels - most from the EU and Japan - however have caught an estimated 80 percent of the fish taken from West African waters. The remaining 20 percent is caught by local fishermen. Catches have been shrinking steadily due to the EU overfishing.
The harbour of Nouadhibou - Mauritania's oldest deepwater port - otherwise has the poor reputation of having turned into a graveyard for old ships which can no longer sail. Rotting ships in the 1990s constituted a threat to sea traffic and the environment, but the harbour is slowly being cleaned up with French and Spanish assistance. Nouadhibou meanwhile has become an important base for international fishing fleets.