Peter Abayomi is a fisherman from Nigeria who has lived in Gabon since the 1970’s. Aboard his canoe, he tells the story of foreign fishermen, mainly from Nigeria and Benin living in Gabon.
In the “Great Dustbin”, named after an old landfill, nearly three thousand people live in houses built of wood and mud in marshy areas. In Libreville as in Port-Gentil, the economic capital, these fishermen are facing mass evictions.
“It’s a shame we don’t know what saint to devote ourselves to… We say to ourselves that we are left to fend for ourselves, because we have called the whole administration linked to the fishery to try to intervene but so far there has been no favourable follow-up”, said Alli Peter Abayomi, head of the Nigerian artisanal fishing community.
It is our fishermen brothers from West Africa who are the majority work force here, so their integration is essential for us. We try to reassure fishermen, we accompany them to obtain their residence cards, we discuss issues of schooling children.
A large majority of foreign fishermen have a residence permit, and leader of the Nigerian community is optimistic. “We dialogue, we do not give up”, he pointed out.
In Gabon, few people can swim. So the Gabonese prefers fishing on the great rivers of the country, rather than go sailing on a capricious sea. “We try to train Gabonese, but we do not fish with them, they do not like,” Abayomi added.
Foreign fishermen are an important link in Gabon’s fishing economy as they catch two-thirds of fishes along Gabon’s coast. And industry players attest to their contribution to the Gabonese economy.
‘‘It is our fishermen brothers from West Africa who are the majority work force here, so their integration is essential for us”, said Georges Mba-Asseko, Director General of the National agency for artisanal fisheries in Gabon.
‘‘We try to reassure fishermen, we accompany them to obtain their residence cards, we discuss issues of schooling children’‘, he added.
For World Conservation Society, an NGO which works with foreign artisanal fishermen, believe that the solution would be to build sustainable habitation for 50 or 90 years as done for foresters. Coordinator of the society, Floriane Cardiec said this could enable Peter and his friends to finally live in better conditions.