In the midst of protein deficiency in our meals

By Hatab Nyang

A large quantity of fish have been found on the beaches of Sanyang this week.

Conlan, the proprietor of Bees Mouth Eco-Lodge on Sanyang beach on her part said that she went out from her lodge few days ago to the beach. ‘What I saw is thousands and thousands of dead fishes lying on the beach wasted while most Gambians are hungry, which could have made me cry,’ she said. 

Sanyang beach according to many is the most beautiful beach in the country and if dead fish lie everywhere, how would tourists who want to swim do so. This is really alarming and is going to destroy both tourism and the fishing industry in The Gambia. 

‘The fish are not magically appearing, they have been depleted; and what I noticed is there are many sorts of fish depleted, not only bonga but other fish like cat fish, Calamari, butter fish, mackerel, etc. are all depleted,’ Madam Conlan explained.

‘I have been working in Sanyang beach for five years and I have seen things like this before but not in a large scale like this as this is on a different scale, so much fish pile high and cover more than two kilometres in length. This is horrible. I’ve never experienced this before. 

‘The Fisheries Ministry should actually come on the ground to see with their own eyes.’

She believes the establishment of fishmeal factories is responsible for this. She urged the government to close those factories now before it’s too late, ‘before they will destroy this beautiful beach.’ 

Ousainou Sarr, veteran fisher folk fishing for more than 30 years from Sanyang, a member of All Artisanal Fisheries Cooperative (AFICOSA) and a member of the task force for monitoring the closure of night fishing from Barra to Kartong. On his part he said they are crying everyday because of the destruction he has seen. 

‘Senegal closed their sea for night fishing on June 1st 2021 as they agreed with Gambia three years ago because we are in the same coastline. I do come to the beach at 6:00 am every day but I’m very sad these days because these big boats from Senegal called ‘filaturunay’ catch and bring lots of fish, some with more than 1000(one thousand) trays. Boats are coming to The Gambia from Senegal from Dakar down to Kafountine to supply the fishmeal factories here. The fish these boats bring are more than enough, this is why they dump the remainder in the sea because the fishmeal factories and the people cannot take beyond their capacity.

He also emphasized that Fishmeal Factories have contract with some boats from Senegal before the beginning of closure of night Fishing. ‘Now boats are coming from Senegal that they don’t have contract with. They first buy the fish from the boats they have contract with and end up with those they don’t have contract with. This is why overfishing is over fishing and dumping.

Sheriff Bojang Chief Supervisor of Nessim Fishmeal Plant in Sanyang debunked claims that it was their contract boats which dumped fish at sea which were washed ashore. He said they process both good and rotten fish, so why should their boats throw away fish? 

But when asked by this reporter why lots of fish are depleted this time, he said he doesn’t know exactly what caused it but that it could be caused by some of the fish which escaped from the nets. He said it could also be they do not need these types of fish, so the only option for them is to throw them into the sea.

This reporter put to him that last week Fishermen Association had a meeting in Tanji and many among them complained that this is the heat period of fish and that this is the time fish come down to breed their young ones in mangroves, rocks, etc, noting that this is what is required to sustain the fish population. He answered that for Tanji they have no Fishmeal Factory, adding that most fisher folk and fishmongers in Tanji beach had an agenda, that is, to increase the price of fish when closure of night fishing comes to an end. ‘If we close night fishing now other people’s livelihood would again be affected especially in Sanyang beach because Nessim Fishmeal Plant had been burnt down by angry protesters few months ago.’

‘Barring night fishing means in general barring the operation of boats and trawlers. When boats are closed but trawlers are not that means you are depriving your own people economically while trawlers, which are foreign owned, are not. If they are closing the night fishing it should be systematic whereby it would be closed completely,’ Chief supervisor Bojang said. 

He emphasized that everyday Nessim Fishmeal Factory spends nothing less than three million dalasis (D3,000,000) and nothing less than five hundred thousand dalasis (D500,000) stays with the community. 

He said our sea is not secure and if we deprive our people earning daily from this Fishmeal Factories, then fish will travel to other places like Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, etc and those will be benefitting while we stop our own people from earning anything. He said that it is when we have a proper system that we can secure and control our sea. 

Kebba Bojang Proprietor of Jungle Beach Bar and Restaurant in Sanyang beach on his part said, ‘It is so very bad that we have nothing on our beaches but dead fish. I will always blame it on the Fishmeal factories. Whether these depleted fish are fish that they cannot accommodate or which their waste pipe in the sea is killing, we don’t know.’

‘We have taken this up with the ministry of fisheries but they came up with lots of excuses that this time of the year that this depletion of fish usually happens. ‘I was born and brought up from Sanyang and I have never seen this large-scale fish depletion until the existence of these Factories in our beaches. This is why we all believe this is happening as a result of this factory. 

This is ‘messy, a big loss to the country economically and could be hazardous, health wise. Importantly it’s a very big loss of protein for the country. This factory is not good for us. Let the government publicly come out to speak the masses how important these factories are, what they gaining from them economically. 

‘The government should close these Factories. How could they allow foreign companies to process our fish, take the finished product to their land to feed pigs and their own fish farms. They took our fish to their lands to make sardines to resell those finished products to us? Why should the government accept that? Mr. Bojang questioned on his closing remarks. 

Solomon Senyorr of Beesmouth Ego in Sanyang beach expressed similar sentiments as of Kebba Bojang and Nicky Conlan.