Amid foreign overexploitation and weak regulation
By Tabora Bojang
Cabinet has approved the imminent review of the licensing fees for fishing vessels and fish meal factories operating in the country, Fisheries Minister Musa Drammeh confirmed to The Standard yesterday.
The activities of foreign fishing vessels and fish meal factories continue to attract widespread criticisms and allegations of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities that threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Gambians.
An investigation by the China Daily recently discovered that nine out of ten fishing vessels legally operating in Gambian waters are foreign owned.
The Gambia has also signed fishing agreements with neighboring Senegal and the EU which allow EU vessels to fish up to 3,300 tonnes of tuna and 750 tonnes of hake per year for 6 years while the EU pays 550,000 euros each year, arrangements heavily criticized for not being in the country’s favour.
Marine and fisheries experts attribute these fish depletions, exploitation and unregulated fishing to weak and ineffective fisheries policies and lack of oversight by national governments in West Africa with the region losing $9.4 billion annually to unregulated, illegal fishing.
In his budget speech before NAMs on Friday, Finance Minister Seedy Keita said the “fisheries sector is faced with increasing number of challenges ranging from the degradation of habitats (related to pollution and/or their destruction), overexploitation (linked to legal overfishing and illegal fishing), climate change and variability, and the effects of COVID-19 and the current Russia-Ukraine conflict. The latter has increased oil prices for sea going fishing vessels and impacted the average cost of fish”.
The minister said to address the managerial gaps confronting the fisheries sector, the Ministry of Fisheries is currently reviewing the instrument governing it including the Fisheries Act 2007 and its implementing Regulations 2008.
The Ministry of Justice, according to Minister Keita, is also finalising a law to take stock of the new proposals for immediate implementation.
When contacted over these developments, Fisheries Minister Musa Drammeh said there is a need to increase the current licensing fees for vessels and fish meal companies because the regulations are “too old.”
“We want to increase the licensing fees. They have been very old and it is about time we renew them because we have to increase our revenue,” Drammeh added.
Asked how much government intends to increase, he replied: “The review process is not complete, so I cannot share it with the newspapers.”