From being a fisherman in Senegal to becoming an independent entrepreneur in Berlin
As a fisherman in Senegal, Mouhamed “Momo” Mbaye saw little perspective: Overfishing of the oceans and unequal competition with international fishing fleets put local fisheries under severe pressure. Momo emigrated to Europe – and founded a fish import company in Berlin. With sustainably caught fish from his native country, “Touba Peche” today improves local livelihoods – and contributes to METRO’s range for conscious fish purchasing.
The seas off West Africa are among the richest in fish in the world. Predatory fish, squid, sardines. But fish stocks have declined dramatically in recent years. What was decisive for this development: Fishing fleets from all over the world were able to catch as many fish in a single day as 300 pirogues – the up to 20-metre long wooden boats of the local fishermen – in a month. At some point it was hardly worthwhile for the local fishermen to go out to sea; and fish, the central food for the Senegalese, became scarcer – and therefore very expensive – for the local population.
Like under a burning glass, one can observe how in the countries of the West African coast, the massive global fishing industry is threatening the marine ecosystem and ultimately destroying livelihoods – and thus creating reasons to flee. This development is taking place against the background of generous state fishing licenses, flawed control systems and loopholes in the law.
Momo emigrated to Spain in 2005. He worked as a cook – and rounded off his knowledge of fishing, which he had built from an early age, with knowledge of fish processing. In 2012, the journey continued to Berlin. Together with his brothers Papa and Adama, he developed the idea of his own company that would bring fresh fish from Senegal to Germany – and thus match the stocks off the coast of Senegal with the demand in Germany: Touba Peche.
Central pillar of the business model of Touba Peche: sustainable fishing. Fishermen set out to sea with pirogues, the fish is caught with lines and small nets. This fishing method ensures that smaller quantities are fished, no by-catch is produced and thus the ecosystem of the Atlantic Ocean is only minimally affected. The local fishermen with whom Touba Peche cooperates no longer have to sell to large companies and are paid around 20 percent above the local average. That way, Touba Peche contributes to improving the livelihood of the fishermen – one in five Senegalese is directly or indirectly dependent on fishing.
In 2015, when all bureaucratic obstacles had been overcome, Momo implemented his idea. He had fish sent to him from Senegal and personally contacted restaurants and fishmongers in Berlin. The road was bumpy, led Momo close to insolvency – but with faith in his products, the company developed.
By chance, Momo got in touch with METRO: With more than 200,000 tonnes of fresh fish per year and an annual turnover of 1.3 billion euros, the company is the largest fresh fish marketer in Europe – and thus has a central responsibility for protecting fish stocks. The most important lever for METRO in this respect is its purchasing policy.
In 2012, METRO adopted a policy on the procurement of fish. Its objective: to create METRO’s fish assortment from sustainable products. Central factors include certification, such as MSC, Global G.A.P. and ASC, the clear identification of accepted fishing methods, measures to improve traceability for METRO and its customers – as for example via the ProTrace app, which lets customers in Germany trace the journey of 700 varieties of fish, as well as the implementation of ecological and social criteria along the supply chain.
In 2016, METRO set itself a new goal: By 2020, 80 percent of the twelve best-selling fish and seafood varieties should have sustainability certification that is approved by the company. For example, at METRO Germany, these twelve varieties account for 70 percent of fish and seafood sales.
In addition to certification, however, METRO’s procurement policy is based on two other pillars: partnerships and projects.
And this is where Momo and his principle – sustainable fishing – comes back into the picture. For while the business relationship with METRO may have been a big catch for Momo and has brought his business forward, Touba Peche” is also an important partner for METRO in achieving its own goals for a sustainable fish range and to obtain goods that are not available from other suppliers.
Together with METRO, Momo managed to obtain the trade certification that is so important in Germany. Touba Peche has been listed since the end of 2017. Today, Momo delivers fish from Senegal once a week – every Tuesday morning – to METRO’s fish platform in Gross-Gerau near Frankfurt. Sea bream, parrotfish or barbels, between 300 and 500 kilos every week. From there they are delivered to the METRO stores and offered in the exotic range. The buyers: restaurateurs who value a menu in which fish and seafood will have a place for a long time.