By Mustapha Jallow
Famara Darboe, the Director of Fisheries Department has on Thursday, told Foroyaa that the fishing trawlers that were anchoring at the Denton Bridge to discharge their catches, were ordered to leave the place by Gambia Ports Authority (GAP).
He made this clarification on 24th September 2020, during an interview with this paper at his office in Banjul.
Darboe explained that Hansen Seafood Company Limited, a Chinese business investment, owned the fishing trawlers. He said they were allowed to operate at the Denton Bridge because the company was given approval by the department of Fisheries, National Environmental Agency (NEA), Parks and Wildlife to discharge their catches.
“We denied the allegation that the trawlers were destroying mangroves and fishing activities within the Bridge. Each trawler we issued a licence to fish in our waters at the ocean, we put you under surveillance and monitor your activity. So, if the trawler falls into a wrong zone, we arrest and fine it,” he said.
Director Darboe said they allowed four trawlers owned by Hansen to anchor at the bridge because the company offered good investment.
He added that the company was legally registered and employed many Gambian youths- both men and women, thus bringing revenue and income to the Government for the betterment of the country.
“Hansen offered good investment,” he emphasized.
Nonetheless, Darboe said it was when they realised that their jetty could not accommodate many fishing trawlers that they made an assessment with other stakeholders, and they discovered that the company could land and discharge their catches at the Denton Bridge.
He said even though they allowed the company to discharge their catches at the Denton Bridge, they have officers and the Gambian Navy monitoring the company’s operations.
“Since alot noise was made all over, the trawlers were removed and the company owners are also planning to shut-down and return to their country – these will affect young Gambians employed by the company,” he said.
Following the allegation, Darboe explained that a team was set-up immediately comprising the Fisheries Department, Gambia Maritime, Gambia Navy, NEA, Parks and Tourism to conduct a find-finding mission.
He said they started their mission at the bridge and they “do not see anything like trawlers destroying mangroves and oysters.”
“But the saddest thing, we gathered was that tourist boats are releasing their human waste into water (sea) at the bridge within the oysters harvesting area,” he added.
Darboe alleged that all the tourist boats are releasing their waste directly into the water and that will infect the oysters which can be harmful forhuman consumption. He said action will be taken against the aforesaid tourist boats once they complete their report.
While on the finding, he said they were able to discover that the aforesaid tourist boats are not only throwing human waste in the water but also engaged in illegal sport fishing at the Denton bridge area.
“If anybody want to do sport fishing they must apply for licence and I am the only person who issue such,” he explained.
He said they will take every necessary step against illegal sport fishing boats and throwing waste at the Denton Bridge area.
The Fisheries act under section 36, subsection (1) stated that “a fishing vessel shall not be used for sports fishing in the fisheries waters without having on board a sport fishing vessel licence issued by the Director, with the approval of the Secretary of State, in respect of that vessel.”
Subsection (2) stated that “a sport fishing vessel licence issued under this section is valid only for the fishery or fisheries, the type and quantity of fishing specified in the licence, and is subject to such other conditions as may be prescribed.”
And subsection (3) paragraph (A) stated that “where a fishing vessel is used otherwise than under and in accordance with the conditions of a licence issued under this section, the master, owner and charterer of that vessel each commit an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five million dalasis or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years and not less than three years, or to both the fine and imprisonment.”
According to Darboe, at Mandinari they found two fishing vessels owned by Qunlong Fishing Enterprise, a Chinese locally registered company and ordered the removal of the vessels, which crew complied. He added that they will meet as stakeholders and review their report and then clear the air over the allegation at the Denton Bridge.