By Yankuba Jallow
The National Assembly of the Gambia has on Monday the 24th December ratified the fishing agreement between The Gambia and the European Union. The agreement is dubbed the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement between The Republic of The Gambia and European Union.
This came after a heated debate on the agreement. Other MPs considered it as a bad agreement while others see it as a good agreement for the country. The agreement entails 3,300 tons of the two species of fish per year.
The Chairperson of the National Assembly Select Committee on the Environment, Sustainable Development and NGO’s, Hon. Sainey Touray said the Committee has thoroughly reviewed and came up with the conclusion that the agreement is a good one. Touray stated before the lawmakers that the agreement is similar to other agreements the European union have with other countries. The agreement is based on two species; Tuna and Hake. He adduced that these species are highly migratory and the Gambia lacks the capacity to catch them. “The financial agreement is that the European Union will be giving the Gambia government a sum of €550,000 yearly and the ship owners will be paying a sum of €350,000. The vessels will be paying license fees to the Gambia,” he said.
Touray added that the agreement also includes a total of 41 vessels namely 28 shiners, 10 pole and line vessels and 3 deep sea water trawlers.
According to the agreement, the objectives are to be achieved over time with a view to developing responsible and sustainable fishing activities taking into account the priorities expressed by the Gambia in its national polices relating to having an impact on the following area: Support and management measures for Fisheries, aquaculture and artisanal fisheries; Sanitary quality management with the view to develop export capabilities; Fisheries monitoring, control and Surveillance and fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; The development and strengthening of scientific capacity in the field of Fisheries; and Measures to protect fragile ecosystem or ecosystems that have made a significant contribution to the health of stocks, such as the establishment and Management of marine protected areas.
The agreement also states that if the fishing Vessels in the Gambia exceeds the annual reference tonnage indicated, the total amount of the annual financial contribution shall be increased by €50 for each additional tonnes caught.
The member for Latrikunda Constituency, Saikou Marong said the agreement is timely and important for the people of the country. He stated that the country will be benefitting about 900,000 euros annually.
Amul Nyassi, member for Foni Kansala Constituency said ‘we cannot just be saying the Gambia lacks capacity to catch the species, what is the EU thinking? To build our capacities”. He said the Select Committee has failed in terms of identifying the way forward for the Gambia in terms of capacity building. He added that there is no statistic in the agreement indicating the number of Gambians to be employed in the vessels. He opined that the agreement should be reviewed so that it will benefit Gambia.
Kebba Jallow, the member for Jarra Central asked Minister Gomez how the sum of 550,000 euros was reached by the parties. “Tell us whether your Ministry has conducted any research to know whether the agreement won’t have effect on other species?” Jallow asked Minister Gomez.
Ndey Yassin Secka, a nominated member said the Gambia should graduate from saying ‘we lack the capacity or resources’ and aim high. “How will we know the activities taking place in our waters when we don’t have the capacity to do so?” she asked.
The member for Jarra West, said the agreement is beneficial to the government because the money that will be gained will be used to raise the capacity of the fishing sector. He said these species are mobile and that the Gambia lacks the capacity to catch them.
The member for Janjanbureh, on his part asked the Minister whether the 41 vessels will all come once and fish our waters.
The member for Niani, asked the Minister to furnish the National Assembly on how they came up with the figures. He added that looking at the catch, the agreement is at the advantage of the EU.
The member for Tumana said the agreement is timely as it will boost the economy of the Gambia. He said in 6 years, the Gambia will benefit from the agreement with an amount of D2,400,000.
Sainey Jawara, member for Upper Fulladu West said the agreement is a good one but faulted the Ministry of Fisheries for not sensitizing the people about the agreement. He said the Gambians do not eat these species and that the country cannot process them. He said the Gambia is the only country along the coast that hasn’t enter into agreement with the EU.
Contributions by Halifa Sallah and Ousman Sillah on the Agreement, will come verbatim in subsequent Issues of Foroyaa.