Jan 21, 2009, 5:14 AM
The aim of the retreat is to identify the challenges and map out the way forward in improving the contribution of the fisheries sector to the attainment of national development blueprints such as the MDGs, Vision 2016, PAGE and Vision 2020.
In his opening statement, the Minister of Fisheries, Mass Axi Gai, stressed that the objective of the retreat is to engage stakeholders and partners in sharing information relevant to improve planning of the management and development of the fisheries sector, and to identify and prioritize issues for improved management and development of fisheries, as well as increased realization of the potentials of the sector.
According to Minister Gai, fish provide the main source of animal protein for the average rural family in The Gambia, where the majority of the population lives within the coastal zone and consumes as much as 25 kg of fish per capita annually.
He noted that the development of the industrial fisheries sub-sector has been relatively limited in The Gambia, adding that all industrial fishing vessels operating in Gambian waters are predominantly foreign-owned.
These vessels land their catches in foreign ports where the fish is processed, packaged and labelled as a product originating from those foreign ports, he said.
Minister Gai added that the Gambia government would continue to provide support, and ensure the realization of improved and sustained management and development of the fisheries sector throughout the country.
Dr Bamba Banja, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Fisheries, said with the support of international development partners, the ministry is determined to make the fisheries sector more productive.
He described aquaculture as very important, considering the number depending on fish for consumption rose to 75 percent, which shows that the fisheries sector is key to economic development.
He said the ministry of Fisheries is aware of the importance attached to aquaculture, and this was why the Gambia government for the first time created an assistant director to be responsible for aquaculture.
PS Banja also assured the FAO country representative that his ministry would continue to work in close collaboration with the FAO officeand other UN agencies to achieve the national objectives.
The permanent secretary urged them to contribute immensely in identifying some of the challenges, and to come up with recommendations and suggestions that would help them make headway in the fisheries sector.
The FAO country representative, Perpetua Katepa-Kalala, commended the Fisheries minister for bring together all the stakeholders to identify the challenges and map out the way forward in improving the contribution of the sector to the attainment of the MDGs, Vision 2016, PAGE and ultimately Vision 2020.
The sector contributes around 5 per cent to GDP, and is source of livelihood for hundreds of thousands in the country, she said, adding that it has the greatest potential to triple economic output and could be a game changer in the national efforts.
She said citing FAO statistics, that fish and aquaculture is a major sector for food security and nutrition, producing 158 million tonnes of fish globally in 2012, and providing job opportunities for 58 million people, 0.9 per cent of the world population and supporting the livelihood of 10-12 percent of the world.
More than 75 per cent of the global fish production is used for direct human consumption of fresh fish, according to the FAO official.