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Fisheries Sector in Gambia
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Priority fishing Sectors:
The Gambia Government's fisheries body is made up of the Fisheries Department under the auspices of the Department of State for Fisheries, Natural Resources and the Environment. The Department of State is responsible for overall policy planning and guidance for the fisheries sector. The Fisheries Department, as the technical institution, administers and implements the national fisheries development and management plan within the overall natural resources sector.

As The Fisheries Department is mandated to plan, manage and develop the fisheries sector throughout the country, the Department caters for fisheries policy and legislations frameworks. It provides advice and service to fishing people, businesses and national and international institutions and organisations. It is responsible for protection and development of the resources and for monitoring, control and surveillance of all fisheries and fisheries-related activities within fisheries waters and on land.

Other institutions and stakeholders involved in Fisheries management are:

• Fisheries Centre Management committees;
• Community Based Organizations;
• Gambia Artisanal Fisheries Development Association (GAMFIDA);
• NGO; and Association of Industrial Fishing Companies.

The fishing sector has significant potential for further development in The Gambia. Although it has a coastline of only 80 km, its waters can be fished year round and are relatively well populated by a wide variety of demersal and pelagic fish and crustaceans. There is a reciprocal agreement with Senegal which allows licenced vessels from each country to fish in each other’s waters.

Fisheries in The Gambia are divided into two sub-sectors:

A) The artisanal sub-sector which is widely dispersed throughout the country and is mainly based on pirogues (canoes) with outboard engines. There are approximately 1,800 such boats in The Gambia.

B) The industrial sub-sector which comprises a small number of, mainly foreign owned, trawlers. In 2001 there were 57 such boats and one factory ship licenced to fish in Gambia waters.

Total annual fish production in 2002 was circa 43,000 metric tones (mt), of which only 573 tonnes was exported in 2003. Most exports are aimed at EU markets. It is believed that the Maximum Sustainable Yield for all species in Gambian territorial waters stands at between 150,000 mt. and 200,000 mt.

Species of Fish in Gambian Waters:

Demersal Species:-
Bottom living fish such as sole, grunts, sea- breams, carangids and cephalopods.

Pelagic Species:-
Varieties such as bonga, sardinella, red mullet shads catfish, jacks carangids and snappers live in deeper water.

Currently frozen shrimps and prawns account for over one third of all fish exports.

Landing & Processing Facilities:
There is no dedicated fish landing pier in The Gambia, although there are some limited facilities at Banjul Port. Fish are often loaded onto pirogues which use one of the many landing points along the coast.

There are nine fish processing companies (with a capacity of between 5 and 10 metric tones per day) most of which are currently operating below capacity.

Artisanal Sector:
The artisanal subsector is highly diverse, incorporating marine, estuarine and freshwater fishing operations. The majority of the communities located along the Atlantic coastline and close to the River Gambia and tributaries engage in some form of artisanal fishing activity, the more prominent communities include the coastal villages of Kartong, Brufut, Tanji, Sanyang, Gunjur and Bakau, and the riverbank villages of Albreda, Bintang, Kemoto and Tendaba.

This sub-sector offers greater potential of making a positive immediate impact on the country's long-term development goals of achieving equitable income distribution consistent with a generalized improvement in rural nutritional status.

This subsector engages in extensive low-input fishing practices, using surrounding and bottom gill nets, hand and long lining, cast nets and stow nets and a few artisanal purse seiners targeting species in all four main stock categories (i.e. pelagics, demersal, cephalopods and crustaceans).

Artisanal fishing crafts are predominantly dug-out canoes along the river, and planked dug-out canoes of the Senegalese type along the marine coast. Fibreglass fishing canoes have recently been introduced in coastal artisanal fisheries. Artisanal fishing activities are active in both marine and river areas.

Management measures focus on the role of the sub-sector in: providing fish for local consumption and improved nutrition; employment generation and improved incomes; the integration of women in the development process as equal beneficiaries and partners; the organization of fisher folks into strong and viable interest groups capable of ensuring conformity with fisheries rules and regulations; in providing information and feed back to Government and participating in the planning, design and implementation of development projects and programmes.

The artisanal fish catch is either sold among the local communities for processing (drying and smoking) or is transported and marketed in major towns and villages in the hinterland. The processed fishery products are transported and sold in inland markets, and some is exported to neighbouring countries. A proportion of the artisanal fish catch of high value (shrimps, soles, sea breams, lobsters) are purchased by industrial fishing companies for processing and export abroad. An estimated 30000 people derive employment from the artisanal subsector.

Industrial Fishing Sector:
Industrial fisheries activities involve use of high-cost fish-production systems (fish trawlers), as well as high-cost processing systems (fish factories). There are about 20 locally registered fishing companies. Although the number keeps increasing, only 11 companies have so far managed to invest in fish factories. Seven fish factories have now been certified to process and export to EU countries. The remaining fish factories have not yet satisfied the regulations governing fish processing establishments. Only three fishing companies have managed to acquire fishing trawlers; the rest of the companies depend solely on supplies from artisanal fishermen to feed the fish factories (there is always undersupply and factories operate below capacity).

Industrial sub-sector targets four stock categories (pelagic, demersal, cephalopods and crustaceans). However, they fish mainly demersal fish species, which are processed and exported. The fishing companies operate industrial fishing vessels (shrimp trawlers, demersal trawlers) under licence, but the majority of these vessels do not land their catches in the Gambia because of lack of a fisheries port. Performance of the sub-sector is below expectations due mainly to the fact that industrial fishing companies are lacking in managerial and technical capability and capacity and are also lacking financial resources to operate viable industrial fisheries establishments. There is also the absence of well defined management plans based on identified objectives and strategies pursued in a concerted manner.

The Government strategy for the development of the industrial fisheries sector covers employment creation; increased revenue and foreign exchange earnings; human resources development; development of value-added fish products; implementing a standard code of hygiene and quality for fish processing establishments; and increased monitoring, surveillance and control of fishing activities.

There exist immediate opportunities for vessel operator/traders to supply the existing processing plants with fish, either by supplying fish under contract, or on some form of joint venture basis with the plants. There are also longer term opportunities for companies with an established market presence to source product, either raw or processed from The Gambia.

Investment Opportunities & Incentives:
The fisheries sector is one of those productive sectors that offer prospects for immediate return on investments. However, certain constraints, coupled with the complexity of the riverine and marine fisheries resources, limit the sector's potentials and contributions to the national economy. The rapid development of the sector, therefore, must rely on a sound research-based management system that recognizes the biological limitations of the resource base and the urgency of improving the productivity of public and private investments to generate sustainable growth. Although fisheries resources are renewable, they are subject to over-exploitation, and to the influence of environmental factors. Thus the under-pinning principle of the management system is the enforcement of judicious and rational practices consistent with the optimum exploitation and utilization of fish resources.

  Fisheries Sector Overview:
Broad objectives and strategy:-
Fisheries development policies evolved during the two national Five-Year Development Plans (1985 to 1995), when government defined fisheries development policies to direct public interventions.

The broad objectives were reviewed for the Economic Recovery Programmes (ERP) (1985-1989) and the subsequent Programme for Sustained Development (PSD) of the 1990s. A Fisheries Management and Implementation Plan for the Fisheries Sector was elaborated in 1989 and was replaced by the Strategic Plan for the Fisheries Sector 1994/1995-2004. The policy objectives of the fisheries sector are in perfect harmony with the national development objectives for the Agriculture and Natural Resources sector (ANR), as outlined in The Gambia Incorporated Vision 2020, which is a blueprint for national development objectives covering a 25-year period (1996-2020). For a medium term economic policy framework, the government has articulated a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) setting out the approach for the eradication of poverty.

Specific Objectives:
To effect rational, long-term utilization of marine and inland fisheries resources; to improve the nutritional standards of the population; to increase employment opportunities in the sector; to increase net foreign exchange earnings in the sector; to improve the economic environment of fisheries with a view to enhancing the sector's contribution to the national economy; to develop aquaculture.

Development Measures:
Immediate management measurers / controls are:- systematic reduction and regulation of fishing effort especially for foreign fishing vessels targeting demersal fish species; improved MCS (Monitoring, Control, Surveillance) land and sea; increase in fishing licence fees; critical review of bilateral fishing agreements; critical review of performances of fishing companies with the view to eliminating non-performing/non-viable companies.

The minimum mesh sizes for nets of industrial fishing trawlers are as follows:

• for demersal fish species – 70 mm
• for pelagic fish species - 40 mm
• for shrimps - 50 mm
• tuna seine nets - 40 mm
• tuna gill nets - 60 mm

The Gambia does not make use of closed seasons no TAC in its fisheries management. Industrial fishing vessels are monitored through regular patrols by the Gambia Navy to enforce regulations. For the purpose of resources management and to reduce conflict between the industrial and artisanal fishing fleets, fisheries waters of the Gambia have been delineated into 7 and 12-nautical-mile fishing areas. No industrial fishing vessel is allowed to fish within the 7-n.m. limit, which is fished by artisanal fishers with environmentally friendly fishing techniques. The grounds between 7 and 12 n.mi. are fished by vessels up to 250 GRT capacity, and beyond the 12-n.m. to the EEZ boundary is open to all licensed vessels

Resource management efforts are also to place special emphasis on: the shrimp fishery (its biology, population, dynamics, potential, current level of exploitation, measures to ensure sustainability and profitability); aquaculture development (fish pond culture, oyster culture, shrimp farming); protection of the aquatic environment (water bodies, mangroves and nursery areas/habitats, protection against pollution); studies on the resource potentials (feasibility of development of freshwater fishery); study on impact of granting access of foreign fishing vessels and, study on plankton abundance and distribution as source of food for fish.

Shrimp Fisheries:
There are great economic and social benefits associated with the estuarine shrimp fisheries, including employment and income for large numbers of rural families and processing workers, as well as significant foreign exchange earnings. Little information exists on the shrimp fisheries stock. However, observations of shrimp catches by artisanal fishermen reveals a high proportion of juvenile shrimps, which seems to suggest high fishing pressure and the possible use by (fishermen) of stow nets of small mesh size.

The immediate task is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the oceanic and estuarine shrimp stocks in order to know their potentials and to determine optimum exploitation levels.

Government management measures include strict enforcement on the use of recommended mesh size (50 mm for shrimp trawlers and 25 mm for stow nets), and establishment of industrial shrimp farming with an emphasis on the breeding of the local shrimp. A new company West African Aquaculture Limited has purchased the assets of Scan-Gambia Shrimp Limited. The infrastructure has been rehabilitated and new equipment and machinery installed both at the hatchery and at the farm and are operational. The company is breeding indigenous shrimp species (the pink shrimp).

An important element of shrimp fisheries is community-based management, including rule-making, arbitration and conflict resolution. Rules are applied in these communities regarding exclusive rights to fish a certain area by an individual fisherman. These users' rights are obtained by placement of an anchor by the fishermen themselves at preferred fishing spots. The value of the rights is indicated by the fact that they can be sold, inherited or leased. Thus they are transferable and exclusive to the owner. Conflicts are rare among shrimp fishermen and when they arise they are usually resolved among the fishermen themselves, or arbitrated with the help of village authorities, elderly shrimpers or a combination.

• Pelagic fish Species Biomass: 1992
• Flat sardinella 10,000 metric tons
• Round sardinella 70,000 metric tons
• Horse mackerel 80,000 metric tons

The Biomass estimates for demersal fish is:

• Grouper 130 metric tons
• Grunts 9,600 metric tons
• Croakers 400 metric tons
• Sea breams 9,200 metric tons
• Carangids 5,400 metric tons
• Dories 250 metric tons
• Cephalopods 940 metric tons

Total losses in fish, caused by spoilage are estimated at 10 to 12 million tonnes per year, accounting to 10% of the total production.

Main Fisheries Regulations:
The Fisheries Act 1991 (a revision of the Fisheries Act 1977) and the Fisheries Regulations 1995 (a revision of the Fisheries Regulations 1978) constitute the legal instruments for regulations and control of activities under the sector. The revisions were necessitated by the observation that the circumstances under which the 1977 Fisheries Act and the 1978 Fisheries Regulations were promulgated changed significantly in the 1980s. Specifically, there was a significant growth in both local and foreign industrial fishing of high-value species, as well as an increased instances of illegal fishing in Gambian waters.

The legal framework for concerted public-sector intervention in the fisheries sector is provided under the Fisheries Act of 1991 and the supporting Fisheries Regulations 1995. The Fisheries Act and Fisheries Regulations provide a framework for harmonizing private and public roles in the development of the fisheries sector and they also assist the Department in technical aspects of the implementation of the fisheries management plan.

The Fisheries Act 1991:
The cluster of issues addressed in the Fisheries Act 1991 concern territorial and zonal boundaries, nationality criteria for Gambian vessels, appointment of agents, control over the import of fishing vessels, requirement for storage of fishing gear, subscription to standardization of vessel marking scheme as proposed by FAO, and associated penalties. Fisheries access agreements are also treated in the act and, in addition to being subject to normal conditions of license, foreign fishing vessels may be subjected to other controls and conditions aimed at the protection and conservation of resources and the promotion of infrastructural development, training and research.

The Fisheries regulations 1995:
The main issues addressed in the Fisheries Regulations 1995 include conservation measures, aquaculture, and export of fish. Restricted zones have been more clearly defined, giving latitudes and longitudes; and fishing gear restrictions defined, including a ban on the use of the beach seine, setting of gill nets around Dog Island, and maintaining minimum mesh sizes for industrial operations, in order to conserve the fish resources. Licensing for aquaculture operations are to enhance biodiversity and to take account of prospects for commercial development. All aquaculture and fish processing establishments must - before an operating permit is issued - provide a detailed feasibility study that covers all aspects of their operations, including sources of supplies, construction, quality control measures, management and financial analysis.

Present Role of Fisheries in The National Economy of Gambia:

The fisheries sub-sector contributes approximately 12% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Within the food production sector, fisheries ranks third after crops and livestock, with an average annual contribution of 2.4%. The artisanal fisheries sub-sector provides direct and indirect employment to an estimated 25-30,000 people and the industrial sub-sector provides employment to between 1 500 and 2 000 people. The sector contributes about 13% annually to government revenue. The national fish per caput consumption average is 25 kg but it is as low as 9 kg in the inland areas, as fish consumption is highest in coastal areas where fish production is high.

Investments in Fisheries:
The government has played a significant role in the development of artisanal fisheries, with donor assistance. However, private-sector investment in the industrial fisheries sector has been minimal due to lack of finance, as most commercial banks are reluctant to give loans for fisheries activities. Among the major investments in the industrial fisheries sector is the African Development Bank loan to the Government of the Gambia for Fisheries Development with a component to build a fisheries port in the capital city of Banjul. This will enable foreign vessels to land their catches in the Gambia as required by the fisheries licensing regulations. There are new fishing companies being formed, but they have yet to construct onshore facilities, and the existing companies are operating below capacity because they rely mostly on supply from artisanal fishermen.

The government has put in place an incentive system for the fisheries sector (subject to review) that included duty waiver on fishing inputs with foreign exchange components; duty waiver on fish exports; and import tax waiver on plant and equipment. The privilege of duty-free fuel for the fisheries sector was suspended in 1994.

In 2001, the estimated artisanal fish production was 32016 tonnes, of which 948.8 tonnes was exported and the balance (31067.2 tonnes) was consumed domestically. For the projection of fish demand and supply for the next 25 years, parameters used were 4% population increase, 5% fish production increase, 3% increase in fish exports and 2% more fish imports.


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