Shortage of fish has hit the Gambian markets recently and fishermen whose businesses are also affected said they are worried about the continuous fishing by trawlers in Gambian waters due their indiscriminate method of catching. Fish is an important diet in Gambia, dominating most of the domestic meals, especially given that majority of the population who live below the poverty line cannot afford meat.
The Gambia’s Atlantic Ocean has been the main source of fish to the population. Its richness in accommodating different species of fishes including tiger fish, barracudas, butterfishes, tilapia, tuna, salmon, catfish, tiger prawns, lobsters has consistently attracted trawlers from different countries to fish on it. But catching juvenile fish, according to most of the fishermen interviewed by The Chronicle, is damaging the sea.
“Sometimes we go out to fish only to find out that our fishing nets have been cut off by these trawlers,” Musa Job, a fisherman at Tanji said, adding that this always affects how much they are to catch which also determines quantity and price in the market.
Citing the Chinese trawlers, he said their catches have drastically gone down since the arrival into the fishing catching business.
“The presence of these trawlers has greatly affected our fishing with most of us left with no source of earning as this is what we base our living and that of our family on”, Jobe said.
According to China Daily Ocean, The Gambia’s coastline is plagued by industrial trawlers that breach regulations to fish inside a nine-nautical-mile-wide area reserved for artisanal fishers. The trawlers are taking vast amounts of sardinella and other small pelagic species that provide a crucial source of protein.
“It’s too sad that Gambians have no enjoyment from their sea. I can confidently say that. Gambians do not benefit or enjoy from our sea because of limitless liberty given to foreigners. The trawlers are the worst experience we are currently facing as fishermen that are causing worst damage one could imagine. And sadly, some of them are entering and fishing illegally,” Omar Bojang, a fisherman in Bakau told The Chronicle.
However, Mawbe Mabllow, a fish supplier at the Tanji fishing station admitted to the hike of price of fish in the market but attributed it to the pandemic.
“There are not enough boats to meet the demand of the market. With the government’s placement on lockdowns, most fishermen have not had the opportunity to return back to The Gambia after the Eid celebrations to work“, he said.