By Hatab Nyang
On Saturday December 19th 2020, this reporter witnessed many boats disembarking their catches on the beach in Gunjur, comprising juvenile ‘bonga’ and catfish. This has been the trend since the opening of the Golden Lead Fishmeal Factory in November 2020, when most fishes that are caught and sold to the factory are juvenile fish.
A fisher folk who spoke to this reporter anonymously said the authorities at the factory do not care, since they are getting what they want for their factory to operate. He said the Gambian authorities and fisheries inspectors controlled and seized all catches of such nature last year, from any fisher folk who catches them. He opined that this year, nothing is happening because the fisheries authorities are not acting to put a stop to this act.
When contacted by this reporter on what is happening at Gunjur beach, Fisheries Officer Ebrima Jabang said the juvenile fish seen at the beach are usually selected from the big ones and comprise only ten percent of a boat’s catch. But this reporter urged Jabang to verify for himself in order to ascertain his report. When he obliged, Jabang saw for himself that the vast majority of all catches were all juvenile fish, caught by foreign fisher folk who have been granted licence to fish in our waters.
Senegalese fisher folks in particular, catch these fish and sell almost all their catch to Golden Lead Fishmeal Factory.
In a fisheries stakeholder meeting between the Permanent Secretary, Director of Fisheries and fisher folks in Gunjur on 23rd November 2020, the Director of Fisheries Nfamara Darboe urged fisher folks to use the right fishing nets with the right holes, to allow the juvenile fish to live and grow to maturity. Darboe said if they refuse to comply, Government will act.
According to the Permanent Secretary of Fisheries Omar Gibba, The All Artisanal Fisheries Cooperative Association (AFICOSA) has the mandate to regulate the day to day affairs at beaches; that they should work hand in glove with the Gambia Navy, the beach community and Fisheries Officials, and stop what he called ‘this greed and illegal fishing.’
However, when this reporter contacted AFICOSA officials on the juvenile fish caught by Senegalese fishermen for sale to the fishmeal factory, they took it upon themselves to monitor those responsible for engaging in illegal and unregulated fishing of juvenile fish.