By Omar Bah
The Gambia National Advocacy Coalition and stakeholders in the fisheries sector in Senegambia have commenced engagements to combat the negative impacts of fish meal and oil manufacturing on the sector.
The coalition will discuss pertinent issues regarding food security with a specific focus on the fishing industry, which is seriously affected by foreign fish meal companies.
Organised by the West African Association for the Development of Artisanal Fisheries, the convergence held at the NaNA conference centre focused on sensitising the coalition on the perception of artisanal fishing professionals on the issue of fish meal and fish oil industries in The Gambia. The convergence was attended by fisheries players across various organisations and communities in the country.
A strong demand for fish meal as an ingredient in livestock and aquaculture feeds has led to a rapid development of the fishmeal and other fish-based feeds industry in Sub-Saharan African countries. These countries include Mauritania, Senegal, and The Gambia, as well as Southern and Eastern African lakes, where large quantities of both marine and inland fish are being harvested to meet the expanding manufacturing of fishmeal and other fish-based feeds.
Experts say this accelerated development has created job opportunities for local communities.
But according to the executive secretary of WADAF, Moussa Mbengue, there are concerns regarding the diversion of fish from local consumption as well as the possible overexploitation of resources, mainly small pelagics that are essential for people’s livelihoods and food security.
He said many local fish processors and traders, particularly women, have been threatened by the competition from the fish meal plants.
“This is why the coalition was formed to engage stakeholders on the devastating impact caused by the fish meal industry,” he said.
Mbengue said that before a fish meal factory is granted license, a lot of factors should be considered to ensure the safety of the environment and the fisheries sector. He said the fishing industry is faced with serious challenges, including the fishing of small fish. He said a lot of fish spieces are now difficult to find due to bad fishing.
“We know the ministry of fisheries has a responsibility when it comes to the issue of granting licenses to fish meal factories. We want them to tell us what these responsibilities are and what they are doing about them because, in Senegal, when the fishing community complained about the proliferation of fish meal companies, the government stepped in and stopped allocating licenses for the establishment of new ones. The government even went further to put up strict measures to control the ones that were already established,” he stated.
He called for strong partnerships between countries, especially in protecting natural resources, adding that it is important for stakeholders to build their capacity so that they can live up to expectations.
Delivering a presentation on Gambia’s environmental laws, NEA’s senior programme officer, Lamin BJ Samateh, said the country has very robust and essential laws that are geared towards protecting the environment.
In his remarks, Mustapha Yarboe, coordinator of the small-scale fisher’s association in The Gambia, described the forum as timely.