“Sooner or later, our children will take the road to Europe”: in Saint-Louis du Senegal, in search of the lost fish

“There is going to be a fight”, announces Makhtar, quickly going up the lines. Sadibou starts the engine and hits the gas. His younger brother Maguette leans with all his weight on the front of the canoe to optimize its speed as the threat approaches. I want to rub my eyes to be sure it’s not a mirage, but I can’t because I need both hands to hold on. We have to face the facts: a patrol boat armed with two 20 mm cannons is heading towards us.

A few minutes earlier, dozens of canoes peacefully dappled the ocean in the shimmer of dawn. They are now fleeing in dispersed order. Pursuit in the Atlantic. We are chased by the Senegalese navy and the balance of power is unequal. The 15 HP of the frail boats are no match for the imposing military ship. Two canoes are boarded, their equipment confiscated. The others come ashore empty-handed. The fishing day is over. Makhtar sighs:

“It’s a bit tough though. »

If the army hunts small fishermen, it is because they operate at the limits of the maritime zone of Diatara, about ten kilometers from the coast of Saint-Louis, in the north of Senegal. An area where they have always fished and which is now forbidden to them.

An area where a consortium majority-owned by oil company BP is completing construction of an offshore terminal at one of the world’s largest fields

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