by: Kebba AF Touray
The National Assembly Select Committee on Environment has reported that the inadequate status of the Navy in maintaining proper routine patrol is one of the major challenges faced by the fishing sector of the country.
The Committee said this in its report on their oversight visit to fish landing sites across the country, to establish for themselves the real status quo of the sites in order to make recommendations for improvement on the weak areas and also to help enhance the success of the sector.
The report was tabled before the plenary by the Member for Kiang West, Hon. Lamin Ceesay, and it availed members the opportunity to go through the report and make their input before its adoption.
Hon. Ceesay told his colleagues that some of the challenges facing the sites especially in Tanji, includes damaged and out-of-date ice plants which makes it difficult to properly preserve fish; that the creek which has been used as a landing site as well as a fishing center, has experienced tremendous damage, leading to its closure. He said the use of improper fishing nets by fishermen has led to the catching of juvenile fish consequently leading to wastage of the next generation of fish, as well as the absence of proper fish smoking facilities to reduce the use of firewood, which is a significant risk to deforestation.
At Kartong’s Fish Meal factory, Hon. Ceesay reported that some of the environmental challenges facing this factory are spill over wastes from the already processed fish which risks the fertility of the surrounding landscape, despite efforts to create ditches to effectively manage such waste.
“On the condition of staff of the factory, it was observed that employees are not presented with safety gears. Additionally, the delegation was informed that staff are employed verbally, and no proper contract document is signed by them, and this gives them no job security,” he told members.
At Barra fish landing site, Hon. Touran said the committee also noted challenges such as the use of illegal fishing nets by non-Gambians; illegal fishing onto the shores of the country with the use of small size fishing nets, and lack of fish storage facilities in the area, making it difficult for them to sell their catches beyond a reasonable period. Other challenges confronting this site are the high cost of fuel in the Gambia; no ice plant in the whole of north bank, and no landing site for the fishing boats. The only place used by boats as a landing site is being used by timber sellers and welders as their base for operation, while others use the site to dump waste.
On Gunjur’s fish landing site, Hon. Ceesay said the Committee found out illegal littering at the site, and during their inspection of the area, they observed that there was no specific place identified as a dump site, with waste indiscriminately dumped everywhere. He detailed that some of the challenges faced by this site are lack of sanitary facilities, lack of ice plant, lack of security personnel, lack of materials for navy officials on the ground, high cost of fuel for fishermen, as well as lack of mobility for officials on the ground and access road.
On the Gunjur Fish Meal Factory, Hon. Ceesay detailed that they were told that the factory was established in 2014, and the machines were installed in 2015, but operation started in 2016. He said the Committee also noted that the factory does not have their own fishing trawlers, but they buy from the fishermen when fish is available.
“This factory has a machine that recycles all their waste products and dumping it back into the sea which they said has no side effects. Regarding staff at the factory, they are employed on contract basis which is written by a lawyer, and they pay D50 thousand dalasi every month to the VDC and also support the village every year,” he said. He said at the climax of the visit, the Committee recommended the need for the availability of safety equipment and protective gears for the fisheries officials and rescue teams at all the sites, and to make patrol boats available to the navy, in order to ensure regular patrols. He asserted that the lack of harmonization of acts and friction in the execution of responsibility of various institutions, and lack of routine monitoring at almost all the sites was reported to them so many times during their visit.
“There is need for the National Environment Agency to engage site managers constantly and consistently on maintaining the cleanliness of sites, so as to ensure a healthy environment and citizens,” the Committee recommended.