The fisherwoman who conquered her fear and made peace with nature

A story from Kerkennah, Tunisia, prepared by UNEP/MAP and the Regional Activity Centre SPA/RAC, in collaboration with Hamed Mallat and Imed Guetat, for the observance of the 2021 edition of International Women’s Day to highlight the accomplishments of some of the everyday female heroes (among many) who embody the principles enshrined in the Barcelona Convention through their work.

Tunisia_1.jpgSalha Bent El-Bouri is a celebrity in Kerkennah, Tunisia, where she was born in 1933 and returned at the age of forty to embark on a new career as a female fisherman. "My relatives encouraged me to use the 'Charfia', so I followed their advice."

Charfia fishing in the Kerkennah Islands is a traditional, passive fishing technique that involves embedding palm leaves on the seabed to create a triangular barrier, blocking the path of fish carried away by the ebb tide and channeling them to capture chambers and finally in a net or trap. Unlike bottom trawl systems that scrape the seabed, traps keep fasting fish alive until they are raised.

Since then, Charfia and net fishing have become the source of his income. "I check in the morning and in the evening and always find something". Salha Bent El-Bouri puts the fish in a bag and releases the other species that she knows should not be caught. Sometimes she had a close encounter with a sea turtle and other types of unexpected catches. This shaped his attitude towards marine animals. Tunisia_2.jpg

Coming into contact with marine animals has not always been easy for her. “I had this fear of the octopus and I used to bring another woman with me to help me catch them,” she admits. "It went on for years until suddenly I was no longer afraid." She tells how, one day, a huge specimen nearly capsized her boat. "The octopus fought well. I fought back for an hour. I managed to make the most of it and brought her home. She weighed 13 kilos."

 The risky fight with the octopus prompted Salha Bent El-Bouri to take steps to obtain his seafarer's card and insurance. “I have seven children who depend on me. If I die, they will at least receive money to live on ”. She obtained her navigation license quite easily, indicating her as "female captain of a fishing vessel". Her reputation as a strong and independent woman was already well established.

 The most important thing, she says, is to secure the support of fishermen and improve their living conditions. "Everything is possible, but we must be united. Without joining forces, without mutual support, nothing will happen and the Kerkennah archipelago will suffer."

The views expressed do not necessarily represent the decision or the stated policy of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Document Actions

published on 2021/04/15 15:15:12 GMT+0 last modified 2021-04-15T15:15:12+00:00