By Omar Bah
The final regional conference of the GOWAMER programme on ‘governance, marine resources management policies and poverty reduction in the West African eco-region’ is currently underway in Banjul.
The project which was initiated in 2012 under the funding of EU in partnership with the UNDP has been implemented in 6 countries (Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal) is expected to complete by 21 December.
The project has supported many developmental areas in the country’s marine; the most notable is the establishment of oyster farms for households through TRY oyster women association in three oyster harvesting communities.
In her opening remarks, the Vice President and Minister for Women’s Affairs, Fatoumatta Jallow-Tambajang said a major concern of the Gambia government is the conservation of her fisheries resources.
She said due to the recent decline of fish stocks, the Gambia government has taken operational steps to ensure that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is dramatically reduced through participatory surveillance of fishing waters, create conservation areas and enforce fisheries management regulations.
“It is globally acknowledged and recognised that the fisheries sector has an important role to play in the sustainable development of our countries. The sector generates revenue for government, thus significantly contributes to the GDP,” she explained.
The management and conservation of fisheries resources, VP Jallow added cannot be achieved by government alone, “the role of communities is as well very significant as they are the users of the resources.”
“In view of the foregoing, we request our development partners’ renewed collaboration in designing projects specific to the sustainable management of coastal and marine resources. This will ensure that the gains of this project are sustained as we embark on the implementation of the SDGs,” she added.
The EU Ambassador to the Gambia Attila Lajos said the GOWARMER project is mainly aimed at protecting marine resources of the targeted countries in a move to ensure there is sustainability in fishing industries.
He said the need to manage the oceans in a sustainable way cannot be overemphasized, given the fact that fish and marine resources are seriously declining by day due to the lack of proper management and policies.
Meanwhile, the UNDP country rep, Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje said the choice of Banjul for this important conference is particularly significant, given the importance fisheries play in the national socio-economic development of the country and the need for sustainable management and use of the country’s marine resources and coastal resources.
“The fisheries sector in general and small-scale fisheries in particular, plays an important food security and employment/income generation role in The Gambia and in West Africa as a whole. It employs more than 3 million full-time workers, about 10% of the working population of the region,” she added.
She said despite these positive contributions, West African countries including The Gambia, continue to face many challenges that undermine effective conversation and sustainable manner, mainly as a result of overexploitation, unsustainable fishing practices and illegal fishing, especially by foreign fleets.
“Global ocean economic activity is estimated at between US$ 3 trillion and US$ 6 trillion, through global trade, marine transportation, telecommunications by submarine cables such as the ACE cable, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism and extraction of oil and gas to name a few,” she added.