An estimated 60% of the money generated from The Gambia’s fishing sector, it is feared, ends up in Senegal not through capital flight but through the dominance of their nationals in the sector.
Fisheries is the third largest food provider after agriculture and livestock in The Gambia and a source of employment for an estimated 200,000 people, directly and indirectly, and though there are more Gambians than foreign nationals in the sector, Senegalese are found to have almost a complete control over the coast line fishing which is the most productive.
Confirming the story to The Standard is Dawda F. Saine, secretary general, National Association of Artisanal Fisheries Operators, NAAFO.
“According to a survey done in 2006, there are 1410 head fishermen in the country out of which 605 are along the coast. And the survey revealed that Senegalese forms the majority of those along the coast and that is the most productive part of our fisheries sector. There are 805 in the inland who are Gambians but some of these people are part time fishermen and that part of the sector is also less productive,” Saine said, in an interview with this paper.
“So Senegalese dominate our fisheries sector and though they sell the fish in the country but an estimated 60% of their earnings, presumably, are being taken to Senegal— that is where they come from.”
Though theories explaining this deficiency are not in short supply, Sulayman Sarr and Sulayman Camara, both fishermen at Bakau, believes Gambians who have the financial muscle do not recognize fishing an investment area.
With a fishing experience reaching 15 years, Sarr and Camara are though fishermen but they are working on a boat belonging to a Gambian who takes about 42% from their daily earnings at sea.
Speaking to The Standard newspaper, as they rolled their net at the Bakau fish landing site while preparing for their night trip at sea, together with their 7 other colleagues, Sarr said Gambians have “slept” for far too long.
“There are close to hundred Gambian youths here who don’t have a boat and they are being taken to sea by Senegalese boats. There are not more than 8 Gambian boats here—most of the boats here are owned by Senegalese… We don’t have our own boats and fishing gears because they are very expensive—it can cost you about D200, 000,” Sarr explained
“This is partially because most Gambians who have the resources to buy boats do not want to invest in fishing. Most people only think of cars and there is money in fishing. There is more money in fishing that what commercial vehicles can generate for anyone. On a good day, we get over D1000 each using someone’s boat. Though sometimes, catches can also come down incredibly.”
Elsewhere in Tanji, the country’s biggest fish landing site that supplies fish to virtually all markets in the country, the story is no different.
Sainey Manneh, representative of fresh fish vendors in the Tanji fish landing site’s management committee, told The Standard that their landing site sometimes plays host of over a hundred Senegalese owned fishing vessels.
Manneh does not though think there is anything wrong with Senegalese in Gambian waters in that magnitude but agreed that The Gambia’s rich under estimated the gains that can be made from investing in fishing.
“There are Senegalese fishermen here— fish travels in waters and Senegalese boats come here when they felt their catches are going down from their end— over 100 boats at times, when catches are good in these areas,” he said.
“And there are many young Gambian boat captains here but the difference between Senegal and The Gambia is that their rich people have seen the need to invest in fishing; Gambians would rather buy commercial vehicles or invest in something else… There are many youths here who are ready to do fishing as a profession but they don’t have fishing gears and boats— it cost close to D200, 000 to build a boat and some fishing yachts cost around D1. 5 million… There will be many youths in the sea if the equipment needed are available to them because fishing is one of the most lucrative ventures in the country. You can get D200, 000 on one fishing day if the catch is good…Most of the Senegalese fishermen here have their own boats… Many young Gambian people work with these fishermen.”
Though Manneh said the Tanji fish landing site did enjoyed support from the Government, apparently, the widening gap in boat ownership between Senegalese and Gambians along the productive coastal fishing areas remains.
Dawda Saine recommended that to breach the gap and get Gambians to take ownership of the sector, the Government will “have to build more capacity and come up with a retention strategy so that we can ensure that whoever is trained to fish stays in the sector”.
“The government could give them assistance but such help will be more beneficial if fishermen form association,” he added.
Logical analysis of the current states of the fishing sector virtually owned by Senegalese revealed that not only does the money generate from the country’s sea resources goes out but it also reduces the vital source of protein and livelihood of Gambians to the monopoly of foreigners.
Many expert believe this will hinder the fisheries sector’s ability to contribute to the country’s poverty eradication and food self-sufficiency agenda,
It is expected that The Gambia will likely do well with its Sustainable Development Goals which replaces Millennium Development Goals that expired in 2015 with renewed investment, both private and Government, in the fisheries sector given the number of people that depends on the sector for survival.
Success in the sector could see speedy improvement in some key SDG goals like ending poverty, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, reduce inequality within and among countries and even conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.