By Tabora Bojang
National Assembly members have called for a swift revisiting of Gambia’s fishing agreements with Senegal and the European Union, which allow fleets of foreign industrial fishing boats to fish in Gambian waters. The Gambia Government in 2019 signed a 6-year fisheries agreement with the European Union which allows EU vessels from Spain, Greece and France to fish 3300 tons of tuna in Gambian waters yearly, with a financial compensation of € 550, 000 per year.
According to the deal, half of this yearly contribution, about €275, 000, will be used to strengthen management of fisheries resources and development of the Gambian fishing sector.
A similar fisheries and aquaculture agreement was signed between The Gambia and neighbouring Senegal in 2017, to “boost the Gambian fishing industry and capacity” and yearly train five Gambians at the Dakar school of maritime.
But during the National Assembly adjournment debate for the 2021 legislative year Thursday, several members proposed that the agreements should be revisited arguing that they have caused a precarious unsustainable situation in the artisanal fishing industry, including increased fish prices and fish scarcity across the country.
“Gambians are really suffering to get fish or to have access to fish, while best quality fish is taken out of the shores of The Gambia all in the name of agreements,” Foni Kansala member Musa Amul Nyassi decried.
“It is high time we [ the Assembly] engaged the Ministry of Fisheries to review these agreements and see how we can put a stop to what is happening.”
Nyassi warned that Gambians will continue to be “exploited” of their “God-given resources” amid undermined food insecurity “unless these deals are urgently revisited.”
The Upper Fulladu NAM Sanna Jawara, said: “We [NAMs] signed these deals [with Senegal and EU] in good faith because the minister promised that there are very attractive benefits for the country in terms of capacity building, monitoring and other benefits of trainings as well as the transfer of knowledge and experience to Gambian citizens but it is evident that this is not happening and we are losing stock of our blue economy. I would urge the committee to engage the ministry and see how we do a revisit of these agreements.”
Kajali Fofana of Jarra West said the bilateral fishing agreements and the issuance of license to foreign industrial fishing vessels have continued to negatively impact on local artisanal fishing operators, women processors and generally pressured the Gambia’s food insecurity.
“The availability and affordability of fish from 2018 to date is getting from bad to worse and so there is a need to go back to the agreement to remedy the situation,” Fofana urged fellow NAMs.
The NAM for Bundung Bakary Njie, questioned the issuance of license to fish oil factories operating in coastal Gambia saying it is unfair for Gambians to be struggling to “make ends meet” when foreign factories are eating away tons of fresh fish to “feed their animals.” “We need to look at this matter seriously, and find ways to address it, before it turns to be a national disaster or a catastrophe. We cannot starve our people and bring factories to feed animals in other countries,” NAM Njie warned.
Ousman Sillah of Banjul North said it would be wise for the Barrow administration to invest in fishing as a means of production and youth empowerment instead of the continuous reliance on agreements and licenses paid by fishing companies.
“What is stopping the government from taking the lead? The young people of this country need the right environment to be productive,” he said.