The United Democratic Party (UDP) receives with great concern reports of the desecration of the marine environment of the Gambia. The Sanyang-Gunjur beach for the past few days is a sore sight littered with dead and rotten fish for miles due to illegal fishing of companies licensed by the Gambia Government Ministry of Fisheries and operated by Chinese nationals. A license to operate in any industry is not leave to pollute and or damage the environment without consequences.
UDP posits that illegal fishing occurs because of noncompliance with the terms and conditions of the licenses issued by the Gambia Government in respect of net sizes and other restrictions imposed in terms of fishing areas, quotas and catch sharing ratios. There is inadequate monitoring mechanisms of the license conditions within the Gambia Government. Consequently, the licensees usually non-Gambians dump the catch that does conform to the size and varieties specifications of the target export markets back into the sea.
The residents of the coastal communities of Gunjur, Sanyang, Tujereng and others over the years have to put up with effluent discharges and toxic fumes emanating from the businesses located around them and have made several complaints about the mindless exploitation of the finite marine resources of the Gambia. The Gambia Government and its agents have failed and or refused to take decisive actions against the environmental damage happening in the West Coast Region.
It is a matter of public records that investigative journalists have unearthed a web of corruption in the fisheries sector rising up to the most senior officials of the Ministry of Fisheries and the reporting has led to the interdiction, trial, and conviction of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry this year. The comprehensive Malagen Report on which the Prosecution relied upon to make its case at the trial named other persons who are walking scot-free in the Gambia.
Following the conviction of Dr. Banja (former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries) for official corruption by the High Court, the UDP expects that all those involved in the matter will be investigated and those found culpable prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Corruption is a two-way street the official soliciting bribes and the person offering the bribe. In the instant case, only the Permanent Secretary was penalized. Where are the others accused of involvement in the sordid affair?
To be clear there are several environmental protection, anti-pollution, and anti-littering laws in force, but what is lacking in the Gambia is the vigorous enforcement of the laws and the diligent prosecution of all offenders. The Inspector General of Police IGP and the National Environment Agency NEA must work in tandem to ensure that the laws of the land are respected by businesses..
If the Gambia Government fails to take immediate action to protect the marine environment and dismantle the corruption nexus between businesses and public officials the marine ecosystem will degenerate further with adverse ramifications for the national economy. Tourism, which is a major contributor to the Gross Domestic Product-GDP of the Gambia, will suffer incalculable brand damage as “the Gambia, the Smiling Coast of Africa”.
In this regard, UDP calls on the Gambia Government to undertake a comprehensive review of the laws regulating the natural resources of the Gambia. With a view to identifying the gaps in compliance and where appropriate take corrective actions. impose sanctions and or revoke the licenses of noncompliant businesses.
UDP believes that given the crosscutting nature of a healthy environment for the general health of the national economy and wellbeing of people living in coastal areas, the Gambia Government must spare no effort to protect the marine environment by assiduous enforcement of the law.
Secondly, UDP is gravely concerned about the unsustainable exploitation in the mining subsector along the coastline of the Gambia. Sand mining both for exports and for the domestic construction industry is moving at a rapid pace which is not sustainable. If this trend continues unchecked with the present climate crises and sea-level rise will increase the Gambia’s vulnerability to climate induced environmental disasters.
Thirdly, UDP notes with alarm the recent phenomenon of sand mining by dredging up the seabed close to the Denton Bridge and the Banjul-Serrekunda Highway. The long-term environmental impact of this process is not known and with the predicted sea-level rise this will jeopardise the existing coastal infrastructure with devastating consequences on livelihood opportunities of coastal communities.Based on the above issues canvassed herein UDP hereby urge the Gambia Government to consider the following:
To place a moratorium on issuing fishing licenses to commercial vessels.
To investigate and determine the rate of compliance with license conditions.
To review the legal and regulatory framework of fisheries industry with a view to putting it on a more sustainable path.
The United Democratic Party firmly believes that the limited natural resources our nation possess must be utilised judiciously bearing in mind the needs of present and future generations. Conservation of the environment is the responsibility of each and every one of us. In this regard UDP wishes to highly commend the great work that Community Based Organisations Civil Society Organisation Non-Governmental Organisation and individuals are doing in the efforts to restore the forest cover and marine ecosystem.Finally, UDP hereby urge the IGP and NEA to jointly investigate this matter to determine who is responsible for and the extent of fish dumping in the territorial waters of Gambia that wash up on the beaches of Sanyang Gunjur etc and as soon as possible make their findings known to the public. And to urge the public to volunteer any information they may have to help in apprehending and prosecuting the culprits.
LONG LIVE THE GAMBIA,‘THE SMILING COAST OF AFRICA’SAFE AND CLEAN GAMBIA
ANM Ousainu DarboeSecretary General & Party Leader