Primes, 2019

Judith Raum (Berlin)

Primes (French for premiums) refers to a system of subsidies employed by the French colonial government in West African colonies in the 1920s to increase the effectiveness of fishing methods off the coasts of Senegal and Mauritania. In order to supply the “motherland” France with fish and the by-products of the fishing industry (fishmeal, fish oils, air bladders, etc.), trawling was introduced to the region and promoted with generous subsidies. In accordance with the colonial mindset, local production techniques were subsequently declared inferior. A laboratory for fishery and fishing products was set up at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, where scientists worked on the controllability of the fish yields off the coast of West Africa. Correspondence from this laboratory was selected and translated for use in the installation. Today, European and Asian factory vessels continue to fish on a large scale off the coast of West Africa, processing catches into market-ready products while still at sea. Although this happens with the permission of the Senegalese government, environmental organisations point out that actual catch volumes are at least a third higher than the stated catch volumes. The over-fishing of these waters, which deprives local fishermen of their livelihoods, represents one of the main causes of migration for the Senegalese population.