By Madiba Singhateh
The Artisanal Fishermen Association of the Gambia has issued a strong condemnation on the recent fishing agreement between the Gambia and Senegal signed last September.
The agreement allocates 500 tons of pelagic species of bonga, mackerels and sardinellas to industrial fishing trawlers.
These fishermen challenge Article 6 of the Industrial Fishing Act of the recent agreement, which allows industrial fishing boats to catch 1,300 barrels of gross register tonnage (GTR) per year for shrimps; 1,300 GRT per year for control de-mersal fish and cephalopod trawlers, 100 GRT for de-mersal fish, 500 GRT per for small pelagic, and permission for 15 ships /vessels per year.
Dawda Saine, a marine biologist, said a protocol in the fishing agreement provides fishing opportunities by granting 500 000 tons of pelagic fish per year, to industrial fishing.
“What they are trying to do now is to call on smaller boats to compete with the bigger trawlers because this has been the historic target for artisanal fishermen, and the loser is surely the small-scale fishermen because they cannot compete with them, and this will create conflict,” he said.
Mr. Saine said the Government should re-consider the agreement and engage the Senegalese authorities on how to settle this matter.
Fatou Pierre Choi, the president of the National Association for Artisanal Fishing Operators (NAFFO), said the agreement does not favour them because it provides more opportunities to big trawlers in the sector. She argued that if the agreement is followed to the latter, every stakeholder would be fishing in the same territory, which she said can create conflict.
Choi added that they were told to fish within 9-12 nautical miles but the big trawlers fish beyond 6-7 miles, which is the same area given to artisanal fishermen. She said while artisanal fishermen save the pelagic fish to recuperate, the action of the industries prevent this from hapening.
Mustapha Yarbo, the coordinator of small pelagic fishermen, expressed shock over the agreement, saying “I do not know how the agreement was done, because they did not involve artisanal fishermen when they were negotiating”.
He added: “The surprising thing is if trawlers have to catch small pelagic up to 500 000 tons, that is a serious threat to our food security which means fishmeal plants will target all the small pelagic catches and, in the Gambia, 80% of the population depend on small pelagic to survive.”
According to the convention,Yarbou noted, everybody has the right to fish, lamenting:“Giving the trawlers that amount, is unacceptable.”
On night fishing and the closure of such activities, he alleged there is no enforcement which make trawlers to breach the restrictions freely.