We must value our water resources

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Fisheries and other water resources must be protected to meet the demand of the future generation.

Among the valuable natural resources that The Gambia has include its fisheries and water resources and therefore all efforts must be put in place to protect them. 

The fact that industrial fishing vessels are monitored through regular patrols by The Gambia Navy to enforce regulations, more and more stringent measures have to be put in place to ensure maximum protection. The fishing industry is one of the biggest employers in this country – mainly on self-employed basis.

According to reliable information, for the purpose of resources management and to reduce conflict between the industrial and artisanal fishing fleets, fisheries waters of The Gambia have been delineated into 7 and 12-nautical-mile fishing areas. No industrial fishing vessel is allowed to fish within the 7-n.m. limit, which is fished by artisanal fishers with environmentally friendly fishing techniques. The grounds between 7 and 12 n.mi. are fished by vessels up to 250 GRT capacity, and beyond the 12-n.m. to the EEZ boundary is open to all licensed vessels.

However, the recent allegation advanced by fishermen over possible ‘semi industrial fishing’ is an issue that needs to be investigated, because any form of industrial fishing needs licencing. It’s important to think that protecting our fisheries and water resources is equally as important as protecting the livelihood of the citizenry.

This country is well known for its artisanal fishing, although it’s incredibly hard to access the current statistic about our fishing industry; the only information available is dated back from 2003-2004.   

The artisanal sub-sector which is widely dispersed throughout the country and is mainly based on canoes with outboard engines. There are approximately 1,800 such boats in The Gambia, according to statistics.

The industrial sub-sector which comprises a small number of; mainly foreign owned, trawlers. In 2001 there were 57 such boats and one factory ship licenced to fish in Gambia waters.

It’s was estimated that the total annual fish production in 2002 was circa 43,000 metric tones (mt), of which only 573 tonnes was exported in 2003. Most exports were aimed at EU markets. It is believed that the Maximum Sustainable Yield for all species in Gambian territorial waters stands at between 150,000 mt. and 200,000 mt.

The allegation about semi industrial fishing activities is debunked by the permanent secretary of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters Ministry, saying they have been also building capacities of stakeholders to manage the community fishing centers for the benefit of the present and future generation.

He said that they believed in a system called co-management where government stakeholders and the committees work together in the management and development of the fisheries sector.

However, all what the government needs to do is to hugely invest in our fishing industry and encourage Gambians to engage in fishing activates. 

“Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.”

Herbert Hoover