From Dusk Till Dawn
The fishermen of Baoût, a village of 400 in the Senegalese Saloum delta, work under extreme conditions to make their living: Up to twenty of them are cramped on tiny pirogue boats when they leave their village in the afternoon to catch Bonga shad or Ethmalosa herring out at sea, 50 miles away. The men, some merely 14 and skipping school, others fishing since several decades ago, will spend all night on the boat, without navigation devices, safety precautions or even torches, waiting for their net to fill up and then hauling it onto the pirogue by the sole force of their hands and bodies. Tragic accidents happen easily: The full net is heavy, lighting is insufficent, and many Baoûtians don’t know how to swim. In the early morning, the boat is unloaded and the fish sold for fumigation.
Meanwhile, the fishermen’s wifes take care of the children and the household back in Baoût. Several families often live under the same roof, therefore coordination is important: The women rotate from one household facility to the next so each of them can fulfil her duties. And whenever there is a special occasion – the birth of a baby, for instance, or just a successful day at sea – they come together in the evening and dance to the rhythm of the djembé.
But despite the intact community life, a place like Baoût offers few perspectives for its youth. The ecosystem artisanal fishery exploits and depends on is fragile; overfishing and coastal erosion could have disastrous impacts in the nearby future. And already today, a monetary income is not understood for the fishermen: Often, two or three herrings or mullets are all the day’s “salary” – not enough to feed a family. Many – almost everyone, it seems – consider emigrating to Europe. And some, like Lamine Sarr, already tried. He nearly reached the Moroccan coast on a pirogue two years ago. After four days on the Atlantic Ocean one of the two motors broke down. Five passengers died on the way back. Lamine confirms he will never risk his life for such a journey again – but it is not surprising that in the recent past, an increasing number of pirogues secretly left the Saloum Delta and never came back.