Meet the people of the sea in Haouaria
Travel through time with Kaïs Raïs
Under the scorching sun at the start of the summer season, we meet a brave man named Kaïs Raïs who introduces himself as a sea captain, from El Haouaria, a small town located at the northeastern end of Cap-bon Tunisien.
This Popeye from El Haouaria accompanies us for a whole day to tell us sad and funny stories and anecdotes about the rich maritime and terrestrial heritage of El Haouaria.
He begins his story by letting us know about the trap or locally called “Tonnara”. A fishing technique mainly used for catching tuna. This Mediterranean method was first used by the Phoenicians and then developed by the Arabs in the year 1000 (MMI article: Blue fin legacy: the link between fish and people https://medium.com/@WWF/bluefin-legacy -the-link-between-fish-and-people-51481ac6993c) in Tunisia, the first practices of Tonnara date back between 1817 and 1825 and was officially suspended in 2000. The technique consists of building submerged structures in the form of rooms at sea and fishing for different species of tuna passing through the area in which the trap is located. The construction and the fishing season by the trap lasts about 6 months. The installation of the different components of the structure starts from January so the device can catch up to 500 tonnes of tuna in a single fishing season. Kaïs draws for us with his finger on the dar Dupuit beach of El Haouaria a simplified diagram of the structure of the trap that we used to build. It looked like he knew by heart the names of the different components of the trap, the exact directions of passage of the tuna species but also the tricks used by fishermen mastering this technique for extremely successful fishing.
The story of Salah Daoaued, the man who honored Tunisia by duplicating the trap technique of a Spanish captain
It is almost impossible to talk about the trap without mentioning the name of Salah Daoud. A former little fisherman who had already worked with the Spanish captains who held the secret of the architecture as well as the operation of the trap, Salah wanted to be autonomous and thought to make his own trap. Salah’s genius was manifested when he brought together all the former Tunisian fishermen and workers and their wives who already had experience and have helped build old traps. He reconstituted his own team and assigned each to their old profession. He bet everything on the expertise and know-how of his compatriots. “No one will know how to do your job better than yourself,” says Kaïs. It was thanks to the union of workers and the perfect coordination led by Salad Daoud that the first 100 percent Tunisian trap was born.
At the sight of the large trap boats abandoned in a thousand pieces on the coast of the port of Sidi Daoud, with tears in his eyes, Kaïs confides: “When I learned that the trap is no longer authorized and that we are not going no longer practicing this fishing technique, we were all sorry for this sad news and now I miss the heyday of adventures with big fish in the sea so much! ”. “If your life begins at sea, the sea will never let you go. Today I am a sick, poor and homesick fisherman, ”he added with a sigh.
Today, nothing remains of the ancient practice of Tonnara de sidi Daoaued, but the story of Salah Daoued is still told to the fishermen of Haoauria as a tribute to the man who, thanks to his tenacity, knew how to challenge nature and contributed to the food autonomy of its region.
Small fishermen of Haouaria, protectors of the sea
Next, we head to a small cafe located in an area called Borj Essalhi. We were lucky to be greeted by a group of fishermen who mostly congregate there.
As soon as the presentations have been made, the fishermen begin to express their sadness in relation to their current situation and start to cite the challenges encountered in their profession, mainly the authorities and industrial fishing. The most common conflicts revolve around the injustice that exists between different profiles of fishermen. The fishermen emphasize the fact that they are very willing to protect the sea which is “the source of our daily bread,” says one of the fishermen. They wish to respect the different fishing seasons, the fishing restrictions in marine protected areas such as Zembra and Zembretta (fishing ban 1.5 miles around the Zembra and Zembretta archipelago) located not far from El Haouaria but also they are very keen not to pollute the place where they practice their profession. They firmly believe in their role as protectors of the sea.
“Why does the law on prohibited species and fishing techniques that harm the marine environment is applied only on small-scale fishermen? Why not ban the large trawlers and suspend their activities when they make a mistake? ” one of the fishermen shouts. He seems to be enraged by misadventures with the authorities who have banned him from certain activities and who have not reacted at all when it comes to large fishing gear such as industrial trawlers.
You should know that fishermen only practice their profession a hundred days a year because of the extreme conditions imposed by nature. One hundred days during which they must cover the expenses of their families and guarantee a minimum budget with which they can survive the rest of the year.
The outcome of the exchange with the fishermen
The conversation being very intense, we share with them the idea of the fishermen’s group. The idea had already been realized in the city of Tabarka in northern Tunisia as part of a former MED MPA Network project. Simple idea which consists in bringing together all the fishermen of the region in a cooperative (Groupement de développement de la Pêche) and to which will appoint by election the members of the management committee in order to represent their interest and give them a voice and a representativeness within the profession. This initiative will put more chances on the side of fishermen to obtain financial, logistical and technical support from the various parties which could have a direct impact on the situation of small fishermen. They seem to like the idea and are completely into it.
The mission of the Groupement de Développement de la Pêche Artisanale (GDPA) will be to guarantee a better organization and representation of fishermen in the profession. In order to participate in decision-making, have better access to state funding, participate in the co-management of the marine space and the future marine protected area of Tabarka (read the article: https: //www.leconomistemaghrebin. com / 2020/01/29 / tabarka-wwf-north-africa-supports-the-small-trade-fishermen /)
Innovative ideas for impressive trips
At the end of our visit, we note that, despite the unfair conditions and the vulnerability of the socio-economic situations of the various fishermen, most of them have heart and soul in Haouaria which is their hometown. They absolutely do not want to leave and are considering to renovate aspects of their jobs in order to increase their income without harming the environment and the maritime and land riches that surround them. Some have found a solution by converting themselves to market gardeners during periods of bad weather, an interesting avenue to obtain additional income.
Many ideas were raised and discussed with the fishermen such as the diversification of fishing, an aspect on which WWF has already worked in other coastal towns including an open-air museum in the port of Sidi Daoud including the remains of the boats that constitute the main element and also a camping area to better manage nature lovers who want to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of El Haouaria.