Overfishing is an ever-increasing problem in West Africa. More and more fish factories can be found on the coastline with all the serious consequences in the long term. 

After 22 years of dictatorship the Gambia has gone through a lot. The deals with foreign investors operating with fish factories in Gunjur and Kartong are made during this period. The new Gambian government is doing all within its power to change the Gambia into a sustainable nation. But are their developments quick enough to safe the Gambia from a very dark future?

Mountains of fish waiting to be processed at the Golden Lead Factory in Gunjur
The Gambia is losing tremendous amount of fish everyday


Gambian Fishing changed

Since last year a new fishmeal factory is operational in the village Gunjur. A second one, which is much bigger, is to be opened soon in Kartong. For a lot of Gambians this factory is offering jobs. According to minister Gomez of Fisheries this factory is offering jobs to 5000 people. The way of fishing changed tremendously.

Gambian fishermen are now doing all their best to supply these fish factories in as much as fish as possible. The factory owners give the local fishermen a better price for the fish then the local market which is off course more attractive to them. But more changed in the Gambia. There is a new agreement which says that the Gambian fishermen will have to run 10% of their catch to the local market. Which means that the other 90% of fish will be processed to fishmeal (or other fish products) and exported to abroad.

And in the agreement now, if I issue you a license, you will have to run 10% of your catch in the Gambia, so that it can go to the local market

– Minister Gomez of Fisheries –


Fish prices will increase

So what happens when the local market is not supplied properly? And when all the fish caught is exported to abroad? The price of fish already is rising everyday now, but in the coming years the price of fish will rise extremely.

Fish stocks are also disappearing rapidly. Sawfish and sharks have already disappeared from our waters. Stocks of snapper (red- and white), guitar fish, captainfish and cassava are depleting rapidly now according to local fishermen. This development is very likely to continue if overfishing will continue taking place as we are doing this now. Fish stocks simply don’t have time to regenerate and will collapse very soon. The less fish there is, the more the price will rise. It’s all very easy.

 

We already caught away the parents, now we are going for the kids

In the rush to supply the factory in Gunjur, Gambian fishermen are literally doing everything they can to catch us much fish as possible. The last months so much fish was caught that illegal dumpings took place everywhere in the ocean near Gunjur. Even in the bush the fish was dumped to rot away. Fish that could have fed our local communities. It is a respect-less waste of our recources.

How an healthy ecoystem functions

Most of the big fish are already caught away. These big ones are the fish that are responsible for the new generations of fish. By catching them all away in our greed we limit the population of fish for the future tremendously. We already reached the point where we caught almost all the mums and dads. So now we are going after the children. Many fishermen have been found with nets having an incredible small mesh size. This mesh size has been reduced by the fishermen so they can also catch the very small fish and process them to fish meal. These small fish provide food for the bigger fish and so on. If we catch away the small ones we will definitely lose our bigger fish too. Eventually we will loose all our fish if we continue like we are doing now.


No time to waste

The consequence of this development will be fatal for the country and the community. Poor people, who always bought fish for a good price will not be able to buy fish anymore. The alternatives to get the protein they need are not there. Chicken and meat is even more expensive then fish. So what will happen when people cannot find and afford the proteins the need anymore? Everybody could give an answer to this sad question. They will die. It is as easy as that. There is absolutely no time to waste for the Gambia and other West African countries. Greenpeace was shocked by there findings during their West-Africa expedition.

Nets with extremely small mesh-size were found among fishermen along the southcoast

 

A real new Gambia

We are proud to have a new government and we are really looking forward to a new sustainable nation. But still, everyday ten thousand of kilo’s of our marine resources are plundered from the sea to be delivered to the Chinese fish factory in Gunjur. You have no idea of the huge amounts of fish until you see it with your own eyes. Lines of trucks full of stinking and rotting fish are waiting to be processed at the factory in Gunjur. And this is just the beginning of the exploitation of the Gambia. The next factory in Kartong is extremely big and waiting to be opened. This is just the beginning.

Trucks full fish arriving at the Golden Lead factory in Gunjur
Trucks full fish arriving at the Golden Lead factory in Gunjur


For a real new Gambia we need to make sure the foreign overfishing threats are gone. These fishing activities are totally not sustainable and will destroy the country. It will offer some Gambians a job now, but it will cause nothing then problems for the country in the long term. A famine is certainly not unthinkable and very likely if these developments continue and our government does not intervene. It is really time to start a new Gambia before it’s too late. Foreign investors can assist in developing the country in certain areas. In this case, they are the biggest threat the Gambia can imagine for it’s future generations.

 

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