By Mustapha Darboe
The Minister of Fisheries, James Gomez, has announced a whopping 11 Million Dalasis revolving loan for Gambian fishermen, saying government believes that such incentives though not enough could attract indigenous Gambians to take interest in fishing.
Gomez, who was speaking in an exclusive interview with The Standard yesterday, expressed disappointment that “fishermen in Gambia are mostly Ghanaians and Senegalese”.
“This has long been the case but the new government’s approach is to change that so that our people can understand that there is lot of money in fishing. So we are encouraging Gambians to get into the industry instead of complaining that foreigners are controlling the sector,” he said.
Minister Gomez said the loan will enable interested Gambians to have incentives and purchase much needed materials for the trade
“I would love a situation where you have two or three Gambians coming together to have a boat and go to the sea. If people come to us and say they want to start fishing we have staff that have the experience in fishing to vet them before they are given the loan and we are only looking at 6% interest,” he added.
On the protection of the Gambian industry from abuse, Minister Gomez warned that his ministry is ready to take legal action against anyone found catching juvenile fishes in Gambian waters. The Minister also revealed plans to increase surveillance in Gambian waters to ensure that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is put under control.
He lamented that the country’s surveillance at sea is very weak.
“We are trying to put in place a system of surveillance. Last weekend we finished a surveillance exercise that was done with the help of the EU and the Sub-regional Fisheries Organisation and Tuesday, I signed a memorandum of understanding with Damen Shipyards and we are starting a dialogue whether we can have two surveillance boats. Without proper surveillance we will find it difficult to protect our resources from being exploited,” he said.
The Gambia’s fisheries sector is the third largest food provider after agriculture and livestock and a source of employment for an estimated 200,000 people, directly and indirectly.