Algerian woman spearheads fight for sustainable fishing
Algeria is the largest country in Africa, covering a diverse stretch of land that extends from the Mediterranean coast to the sandy dunes of the Sahara Desert.
Despite its 1,622 km long coastline, Algeria remains very little affected by mass tourism and the problems associated with it. But that does not mean its coast is immune to detrimental human impact, such as pollution. Instead of littering tourists, it struggles with disturbances caused by economic activity, such as fishing and waste shipments. Waste water also remains one of its biggest threats.
Theoretically, there are laws that protect the Algerian coast, but these are barely enforced. The sobering reality is that in industrial zones like Arzew, Skikda, and Ghazaouet, waste is discharged directly into the sea. Not to mention that ships, transporting waste and other cargo to and from Algerian ports, are the frequent source of oil spills.
Solid waste is invading the coastline
One of the most visible types of pollution in coastal areas is solid waste, especially plastic, such as bags and packaging, cans and bottles of beer, pieces of rags, or tyres. Over her 35 years of experience as a scuba-diver, Samia Balistrou has seen this waste gradually invade the coastline.
She came to the conclusion that action was urgently needed. In 2015, she founded HOME an environmental association based in Tipaza, a coastal city 70 kilometres east of Algiers. "The association was born to meet an urgent need: the protection of the sea and the coast," says Samia, who is familiar with the Mediterranean in all its facets and has closely observed the evolution of its environment.
As a privileged witness to an impending ecological disaster, Samia began to raise awareness about the dangers that lay in wait for the sea. She did so through writing and radio broadcasts. She produced and hosted two programmes: one on the environment and the other on the sea, entitled Sawt el-Bahr (Voice of the Sea). Those "received very good feedback but remained without significant impact on decision-makers and the behaviour of citizens," says Samia.
Hence, she came up with the idea of an association in which friends of the sea and environment could be united in their efforts to change the way society thinks and acts. HOME was the name she chose for "her baby", as Samia lovingly calls the organisation, "in tribute to the film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, which affected me a lot."
In one of her live broadcasts on the radio, Samia interviewed a fisherman who complained that he was recovering more and more plastic from his nets. To the question of what he was doing with the waste, the fisherman replied simply: "I throw it back into the sea!"