Do you remember the baby fish poster with the plea "I'm still a baby, let me live and grow"? It became the attraction at the 2012 edition of the Green Week in Brussels. Hence the Mundus maris invitation to kids in different countries to learn more about the plight of the many baby fish being caught prematurely in the world's fisheries and help raise awareness for the need to protect them more effectively. What better means to tell the story of the babies and give them names so that they become the symbol for protecting the baby fish and the entire ocean?

The problem is particularly bad in trawl fisheries using fine meshed nets to catch bottom-dwelling shrimp. Even 80 % of the catch hawled up by such trawls may consist of baby fish of valuable big fish species and many other fragile marine creatures.

All those dead and dying babies are then discarded and thrown back into the sea, never to have the chance to grow up and reproduce themselves.

The slaughter is bad news for all the species living together in an ecosystem. It means havoc for their food and the survival of their own species, not to mention the physical destruction of their habitat, crumbling under the impact of the trawls.

Unfortunately, also many other fisheries catch baby fish because they use nets with excessively small mesh sizes. It's a tremendous waste and ruins the future of the fisheries themselves.

This is why hundreds of kids responded to the invitation of Mundus maris to raise awareness to the plight of the baby fish, give names to the mascots and tell their story so that the bad practice can be stopped.

Among all the proposals, the submission of the members of the Mundus maris Club of the CEM in Kayar stood out. They won the first prize.

 

The Mundus maris Club of the CEM in Kayar, Senegal, celebrated its first prize in naming the Mundus maris mascots with a parade through the village and a ceremony on the school ground. Kumba and Samba are now the names of the baby fish girl and boy respectively.

The kids and all well-wishers vowed to protect the small ones to let them grow and reproduce. The celebrations took place on 15 March 2013 and mobilised not only the school community of the CEM and of neighbouring schools, but also many notaries from the fishing community.

Overfishing is currently the major problem for the artisanal fisheries in Kayar, in the country and wordwide. It is deeply changing the way marine ecosystems function. It affects their ability to produce food and provide the many other functions essential to life on the planet. Congratulations to the winning team and all the others, including the primary school Kayar 1, who have contributed so well through their work and proposals by raising awareness about this scourge.

This was a great day for the president and the members of the Mundus maris Club of the CEM in Kayar and the entire school community.

The postal services from Europe to Kayar in Senegal had taken quite a while to deliver the honorary certificates and the tokens dispatched from MM headquarters to recognise their excellent submission.

Click here to be reminded of the submissions of the different schools for naming the mascots.

And it also took some time to orchestrate the wide-ranging preparations for the celebrations.

Given the active participation of the Elementary School Kayar 1 and their good submission, the two schools joined indeed forces for the event.

The starting point of  the celebrations was a big parade complete with banner and pancards.

It started at the school and then took the procession all the way through the vast area of the fish landing areas, the main street of the village and back to the school.

 

The parade was accompanied by drummers and music and it was impossible not to notice the joy and the bruhaha. Lots of people joined the parade or looked on as the party passed by.

The spearhead of the procession were members of the Mundus maris Club animated by their president, a cheer leader and their coach, Mr. Gadio wearing his trademark cap.


 

When finally back to the school ground, the party found the stage, sun shades and display of tokens well arranged.

Thus started the more ceremonial phase of the celebrations.

Several personalities spoke to the kids, the parents and the teachers in recognition of the exploit of the Club and, most importantly about the need to join forces more effectively to protect the juvenile fish.

 

 

The Director of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Kayar, an initiative supported by the WWF and considered rather successful, spoke about the progress already achieved thanks also to the support of the local fishing community.

He commended the kids and the school for their commitment towards protecting the sea and its ecosystem as a good way to return the village to its former wealth.

He also mentioned that several studies suggested the MPA was having an effect on restoring the degraded ecosystem around Kayar.

There was, however no reason to rest on any laurel as monofilament nets and other illegal gear were still being used in the region.

 

The representative of the interprofessional Economic Interest Group (GIE) spoke for the people engaged in the many professional activities assosiated with the fishery.

He congratulated the kids of the Mundus maris Club for their achievement.

The fishery and related activities have a huge impact on the economic and social well-being in Kayar.

So caring about the good state of health of the resource and the entire ecosystem was essential for the income earning capacity of the sector.

But there were also other factors, such as ensuring good sanitary conditions and cleanliness at the landing place, in the fish marketing stalls and throughout the handling and processing.

Fishing continued to be a dangerous occupation. When there was too much wind, the boats could not take to the sea.

 

Next was the representative of the parents association to take to the podium. The parents are taking an active interest in the further development of the school. That can be seen e.g. by their effort to construct an additional class room. Unfortunately, they ran out of money before the roofing was completed. They are now looking also to some outside support to complete the job of improving teaching conditions.

The parents were delighted about the international recognition for their kids' participation in the competition. Samba and Kumba are household names in the community and fit the mascots very well.

Many of the parents are fishers or fish mongers themselves. They have experienced the decline of the resource as a result of overfishing over the last decade in particular. Many families have sent sons to work abroad to open new opportunities. Some have succeeded quite well, but others have lost beloved ones and costly equipment since the first wave of illegal emigration in 2005. So, the engagement of the kids drawing attention to unsustainable practices evokes a lot of approval, but also mixed feelings.

The last part of the ceremony consisted of handing over the honorary diplomas and tokens to the members of the Mundus maris Club. The gathered audience gave them all a big clap.

The last part of the celebration was all joy and music. The participants distributed themselves in a square around the school yard.

Enticed by the drummers, dancers, individual and in small groups, came forward to show off their skills. Forgotten were the problems, it was all rythym and energy.

The atmosphere was further heated up by sketches, such as the traditional play of the 'false lion'.

You bet, after such a wonderful parade and party more young people get interested in what the Club is doing.

Several youngsters had taken snapshots throughout the celebrations. One even tried his hand at some video-registration. One gets an even better feeling for the atmosphere. Click here to get a taste of it.

At the end of the celebrations, the president of the Mundus maris Club already thinks about the next steps. Members naturally grow out of it, when they complete school or continue at the high school in the provincial capital Thiès (Kayar still has not got a high school of its own despite a permanent population of more than 25,000 inhabitants).

But some remain members ever after moving on. Then new recruits are needed among the younger age classes to ensure continuity of the activities.

 

World Ocean Day 2013 - 8 June - is nearing. 5 June is World Environment Day, which the entire school used last year for a big mobilisation to clean up the beach.

Connecting the local challenge for restoring the once particularly rich marine ecosystem to the wider international efforts the Club hopes to engage in more international exchange to increase the effectiveness of its activities.

The Club can tell more stories about Kumba and Samba and the efforts for sustainable fisheries.

 

All photos by Abibou DIOP, Principal of CEM in Kayar.