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City of Banjul
Thursday, February 22, 2024

Is a fishy situation

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By Baboucarr Lowe, USA

Many a friend would think I am obsessed with this topic, and yes rightly so I am above the moon obsessed and concerned about our fish as a resource. The fish in our waters are a resource, and one ought not to be an economist to understand that all resources are finite, and therefore must be managed for the benefit of the society where the resource is found.

Now then we must ask ourselves and be honest as Gambians, are we as a people managing this resource (fish) for the betterment of the Gambian people? To answer such a question, it would have to be categorically stated here that The Gambia is not managing its fish resource for the betterment of the people of The Gambia.

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Fish is an important component of our diet. The Gambia is blessed with an abundant of different species of fish which the population depend on for consumption. Majority of Gambians particularly those living within the coast consume fish to enrich their diets. Those living upcountry must also be counted in this fold as fish is more affordable to providing a balance nutritious diet for the average Gambian.

Therefore, knowing the significance of this resource and its importance should have made all stakeholders, and in this case the government, safeguard the little we have. This little we have is the fish (food) we are blessed with, but which is now very elusive to most Gambians.  

So, therefore, we must ask why the fish are elusive for the average Gambians. To have a faithful and unbiased answer to this question, one must clearly and unapologetically state here that the authorities that are running our affairs care very little about the welfare of the average Gambians. This observation is made without any reservation.

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And why is that so, well if the authority had any interest in the nutritional intake of every Gambian our waters would not have been mortgaged. 

The average Gambian household consume more fish within the year than meat. Most Gambians cannot afford meat for an entire family therefore making fish the main nutritional stay for many Gambians.

However, some form of madness has descended in Banjul and God knows how much revenue is generated for government coffers, but one  can safely say  that the coming of the fish meal factories coupled with the granting of fishing rights to our so-called neighbor, Senegal, to fish in our waters plus the allowing of their ice trucks to compete in fish buying at our main landing sites- this used to happen and there is no information that things have changed-  has made fish elusive for our countrymen. Yes, one can attest without fear that our government has mortgaged our waters to benefit foreign vessels from far and wide, and this includes Senegal, China and Europeans.

One would have thought this current government would do all it takes to safeguard the little we have, more so our food and food source, but am flabbergasted and have since resigned my faith in them. Any country that cannot safeguard its food source, make sure that people within that country have access to cheap local food source, is bound to fail.

As they say a hungry man is an angry man – this saying holds water – and perhaps that is why in the West food which is a human right is mostly affordable. In the case of The Gambia, instead of safeguarding our waters and thereby our fish, decided to invite all to come to the feast. Senegal is our neighbor, but what has Senegal done for the Gambia to warrant such a deal to take place which allows them to harvest   tonnage from our waters to feed their families while Gambians starve off protein. A concession is given to Senegal to allow their trawlers to fish our Gambian waters in large scale industrial capacities, also allowed – this was a practice in the past and there is no new information to state otherwise – are their ice trucks that descend on Tanji to compete with our women folks who buy and resell these fish for profit at our local markets. Now with this competition and based on business and profitability, one must ask will the fishermen sell to the highest bidder, and the answer of course would be yes and if that is the case then fish and fish products will be out of the reach to many Gambians as we are now witnessing.

This then will also inform us about the fish meal factories on our shores. These factories buy the fish that should have been on the dinner plates of Gambians for fish oil extraction. Sheer madness if you ask me, and why that is so is because with the limited resource we have as in the fish for our protein, instead of safeguarding it for the consumption of Gambians, are being sold to a foreign entity whose sole aim is to extract oil for their local markets, in this case China.  Small Gambia with food and nutrition deficiency, instead of cherishing the little we have, have allowed China with its appetite for resources to plunder our seas – it is tragic what is happening and the powers to be either do not care or don’t have any inkling of what is about to happen to Mother Gambia. Our seas, just like any other resource, if care is not taken will one day run out of fish and if that is allowed to happen the country will be sent to the dogs. 

One must ask how much the fish meal factories inject into our economy that would warrant our government to look the other way. One must also ask what has Senegal done for the Gambia to be given carte blanche into our waters. Answers to these must be provided by the powers to be but one must hasten to add that none will be forthcoming, not because there is none but in the case of Senegal what is tragic is that the present government perhaps believes that they occupy the State House thanks to Senegal and if that is the mindset then one can say with clarity that that assumption is false and lacks any and all truth. In the case of the fish meal factories, it was the previous government – Yahya Jammeh’s government – which made this very bad deal- depriving our people cheap food – the fish – and having it sold to foreign entities. ‘Nyaca fayda torop’. China is galloping in her development while Senegal has deployed flying machines to hunt for people who trespass into their forest within the Casamance not just for logging but even for deadwood- firewood – this development is denied both by the Gambian authorities and their Senegalese counterparts with regards to the deployment of drones but who feels it knows it and those lads who were shot at in the forest knew what they saw from above – while Gambia is slumbering with her resources and allowing it to be plundered. Twice, ‘Nyaca fayda torop’.

Now this does not even address the illegal poaching of our waters by those far and near, China included, of course Senegal too. Actually, the latter has been made a guardian of our waters. ‘Doi Na warr’. He who does not have has been offered to be the watchman of the merchandise he lacks, ironic, sad and downright senile of a decision. 

Wake up Gambia and safeguard the little we have before we start importing farm raised fish from China or somewhere else.

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