Coastal Fisheries Initiative

“Use environmentally friendly gear”

World Oceans Day: message from a fisherwoman in Cabo Verde


Maria Sábado de Horta Fidalgo, 42, lives in the village of Rincão on Cabo Verde’s Santiago Island and has been working as a small-scale fisher since leaving high school at the age of 17.

She inherited a fishing vessel from her father, who was a life-long fisherman, and with this acitivity she supports her mother and her two daughters, aged nine and 19.

Maria says that since she started working in her profession more than two decades ago, fish have become more and more scarce.

“From February to May, we find very few fish,” she says. “Vendors come from other places to sell us fish because we can hardly catch anything out there.”

She says that in her area, almost all the fishing boats are docked.

“When they do go out, they almost always exceed the allowed fishing time, and come back with nothing,” she adds.

Times of scarcity alternate with periods of abundance, but this leads to post-capture losses because of a lack of refrigerated units and also of seafood processing equipment.

“In September and October, we tend to capture a lot of fish, and because we have no means to conserve them, we have to cut our prices so we can sell the catch before it goes bad,” Maria explains.

She says that many fishmongers in her community have received training on different methods of processing fish, such as smoking, canning, and salting.

“However, we don’t have a space or the materials we need in order to combat fish loss and waste by transforming it into seafood products,” she says.

As well, Maria and her community have noticed their marine area is becoming more polluted, including by trash being thrown overboard during tourist sea excursions.

“We have already had several cases of turtles dying because they ingested plastic or other garbage,” she recounts. “In another case, a lot of people got food poisoning by eating fish that had been contaminated in the sea, before it was caught.”

“We are very worried about sea water pollution here,” she adds. Besides running her business, she also serves as President of the Rincão Women's Association, which received capacity building from the Coastal Fisheries Initiative in West Africa (CFI-WA).

“We attended a workshop on the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries,” comments Maria.

“We learned why it is important to respect the norms that protect certain species, and why it is important to observe biological rest periods,” she explains.

“If we follow these rules, we will have more fish in the future.”

Fishers must do their part to preserve resources

Maria thinks there are two important things people should do to protect their oceans.

“We should use more environmentally friendly fishing gear: nets must be large mesh to avoid catching immature fish,” she says.

“We also need to organize more beach clean-up campaigns, especially during tourist season when they fill up with rubbish quickly.”

As for the future, Maria hopes for more widespread awareness of the need to fish responsibly and sustainably.

“As a mother, a vessel owner and president of an association, my hope is that all fishers will start to respect the rules, especially in the marine protected area that will soon be established here,” she says.

“I was amazed at the size of the fish that are caught on the other islands: they much larger than those here. I believe that with the implementation of the protected area, the fish in Rincão will be able to grow to that size as well,” she concludes.

About CFI-WA

CFI-WA covers Cabo Verde, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal. The Initiative works with stakeholders and authorities to strengthen fisheries governance and management and improve the seafood value chain and working conditions, with a focus on empowering women. It is implemented by FAO in partnership with UNEP/Abidjan Convention and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).