By Makutu Manneh
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Fisheries has on Thursday said most of the local fishermen and trawlers operating in Gambian waters are engaged in illegal fishing activities.
Dr Bamba A.M Banja on Thursday saidy: “This is a global problem; Gambia is not the only country facing it.”
Dr Banja who made this statement during an interview with this paper, was reacting to claims by local fishers who alleged that Chinese Fishing trawlers operating in Gambian waters used unauthorized nets to catch fish including juvenile ones.
He said that is why the Ministry of Fisheries is in the process of buying a new petrol boat for the navies so that they would be in a position to effectively police the country’s territorial waters against poachers, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the Gambia.
He said the Ministry of Fisheries is working with its development partners and other players at sub-regional level to combat IUU which they are doing by carrying joint surveillance missions which involve other countries.
He said they will not relent in the battle against illegal, unreported and unregistered fishing until they eradicate the practice in The Gambia.
Dr. Bamba A.M Banja earlier said industrial fisheries activities in The Gambia are regulated by his Ministry.
He mentioned that each fishing vessel has its limitation in Gambian waters. He said the local fishermen are to fish from 0 to 9 nautical miles, while “industrial fishers are authorized depending on the size of their vessel which can be from 9\12 or 12 beyond nautical miles”.
He added if any of the fishing vessels goes beyond the nautical miles, they are allowed to operate, then, they are encroaching into the zones reserved for others which is punishable under Gambian law.
Dr. Benja said in the event any vessel crosses its territory to another boundary, it would not be the responsibility of the fisheries ministry to react, but that of the Gambia Navy because it is their responsibility to protect the coastal and fishery waters.
“Fishing in the wrong zone is against the fishery law which the fishermen don’t understand,” he said.
He further said before fishing trawlers are given permission to fish in the sea, they have to come for inspection and in the process, they look at their facilities, net sizes and others to see if they are in conformity with what the legislation is demanding from them.
He remarked: “We cannot give license to a fishing trawler that has not fulfill the requirements of the law.”
The net size is regulated and inspected and if any vessel is found fishing with the wrong net sizes, the vessel is intercepted and the crew arrested, he added.
He said they have registered about 50 to 60 trawlers, adding these trawlers are given three months to operate and after that, some can come and renew their license again.
He said they need the participation of Gambians in the sector especially the women and youth, saying only few Gambians are fishing.
He said fishery is a very important sector for the Gambian economic because it has the potential to create employment opportunities and bring revenue and foreign exchange as well as improve the nutritional status of Gambians.