Plight of Artisanal Fishermen in the Fishing Industry

96

With Madiba Singhateh

In this edition of the environment column, we will look into the plights of the artisanal fishermen in the fishing industry as well as the issues of illegal fishing activities and the ban on night fishing.

According reports, the artisanal fishing sector contribute 90% of the total national fish consumption and also supply about 80% through the industrial fishing plants.

The artisanal fishers contribute to the livelihood of the populace as it provides employment for thousands of People in the industry including all types of vendors at the coastal villages.

“The night fishing finishing will be over soon, and the normal fishing will start.

“Right now the night fishing has not started yet but I heard it will begin soon, and proper fishing will start and business will be blossom,” said Ass Malick.

Speaking to Foroyaa, Ass Malick said sooner or later neighbouring countries will be flocking in the village for the fishing season which will be good for business.

Malick, who sells second hand clothes such as furniture and gadgets in Tanji, said when the(Moll) fishermen are in town, businesses flourished because they buy bicycles, television and lot of things in CFA because they don’t understand the dalasi.

“When they start, fish will be abundant along the landing site and it will be cheap” he said.

At the landing site in Tanji, People could be seen in joyous mood as they prepare for the season as the fishermen and craftsmen started to flock in the fishing village.

Night Fishing

As the controversial night fishing is coming to end, the National Association of Artisanal Fishing Operators (NAAFO) received many complains about fishermen not respecting the ban last month. However, others felt that they had to break the ban because of circumstance beyond their control.

Some of them said when they go out at sea, they bought fuel and could not return empty handed, making them to catch the juvenile ones instead of incurring losses.

Every year from June to December, the sea is closed for night time fishing and the agreement between the fishermen and the government stated that the sea will be closed for night time fishing for a period 6 months per annum, but just little over four or five months, people started going to sea and supplying the fishmeal factories with juvenile fish. This angers and frustrates many fishermen to ask whether the fishing season has started?

“This year’s closing season is not properly coordinated because we have not seen any contingent or delegates who went to the landing site to talk about the closure said t Seedy Chorr the representative from AFRICOSA,” he said.

Mr Chorr said if night fishing has been banned for conservative measures, they also have to informed the fishermen about the stock level of the species to know whether they are depleted or not.

He said they should communicate to the fishermen every year before they closed it.

He added, “In all those seven years, what were the achievements they registered when they started closing the sea. Was the stock level increasing or depleting? The most important and the most detrimental issue in the small pelagic resources and the catching of juvenile fish, which has to be controlled in the landing sites than the closure of the sea, which does not give us any improvements but rather disagreement and discontentment within the landing sites.”

“If the agreement was monitored strictly that could be better but that is not happening and if you look at it carefully catching juvenile fish is more serious than night fishing,” he said.

Ahmed Manjang, a staunch environmental advocate who lives in Gunjur village, a fishing landing community, said from 1st June to 30th November, the night fishing is normally closed but said while they were at the landing site recently, they found significant amount of small boats with catchers whether the season has started.

Speaking further, he said later at night their informants called to inform them that lot of juvenile fish have been caught, but he could not make it at the landing site to witness it.

Manjang later questioned the competency of the fisheries officer and accused him of not representing the interest of the artisanal fishermen but the fishmeal factory in his community.

Fishing Agreement

In September, the Ministry of Fisheries and its departments signed an agreement with the Republic of Senegal in the field of fishing and Aquaculture.

The artisanal fishermen raised concern in one of the agreements which designate 500 tons of pelagic for industrial fishing, lamenting that it did not favour them.

The Artisanal fishermen of the Gambia said they are concerned about the government’s agreement with Senegal on the allocation of these tons of pelagic species to industrial fishing trawlers.

The agreement includes industrial fishing allow to catch 1300 barrels of gross register tonnage per year for shrimps , 1300 GRT per year for controlled dermersal fish trawlers, cephalopod trawlers, 100 GRT for dermersal fish, 500 GRT per for small pelagic .

Speaking to Dawdasaine, a marine biologist said the fishing agreement provides fishing opportunities that have granted 500 tons of a pelagic per annum to industrial fishing.

“So what they are trying to do now, they saying you small scale fishers you the industrial fishers come and compete because these has been a historic target to artisanal fishermen,” he said.

Mr. Saine said the government should engage the Senegalese authorities and review the agreement to see how best they can address this matter.

“My problem is given access to industrial fishers to access the pelagic. For the pelagic, there should be exclusive clause, which means the small pelagic should be for national artisanal fishermen for national consumption for us to achieve our objectives, employment generation and food security,” he added.

“Majority of Gambian cannot buy barracuda but with 100 dalasi or 50 dalasi you have at least a bonga, so we should have national decisions.”

Momodou Sarr fondly called Mambinta, a fisherman and a member of the fishing association, said allowing industrial companies to fish small pelagic means destroying the sea.

He said granting them exclusive opportunities will make the populace suffer since majority of the population feeds on bonga (Chalo/Kobo) and now (Yaayibooy) which Gambians don’t value before. He said the fishermen believe the pelagic is for the artisanal fishermen to catch and feed the populace.

However, he noted that if the trawlers have to engage in the catching of pelagic, then there will be nothing left for the artisanal.