By Yankuba Jallow and Hatab Nyang
Many fisher folks, fish mongers and other stakeholders have lamented the economic losses they are encountering due to the closure of the Golden Lead Company. They narrated their experiences to Foroyaa on the beach on Tuesday.
Several fishing boats were seen stationed on the Gunjur shores and few fishermen fetched fish since the Golden Lead Company’s closure.
This came about when the Company ceased work because of the large quantity of fish the company purchases from the fishermen. The fishermen have desisted from going to the sea because of low sales.
The Company according to them buys fish in large quantities which attracted many of the fishermen to come to the place.
More than 40 ships were seen on shore whilst few went to fetch fish. Women and youths were seen sitting on the beaches. Four vehicles come to buy the fish whilst few people were there to buy the fish.
The President of the Fishermen Association Gunjur, Adama Cham also a native of Gunjur said he is worried because only few fishermen went to sea because of the closure of the company. He also said the only market for them is the Chinese Factory and the only hope for the fishermen. He further said many women abandoned their gardens for the beach because of the huge benefit it brought for the people. He averred that if the government closes the company it will cause the loss of a thousand jobs. He also said he has been on the Gunjur Beach for more than 14 years and he knows how the Beach was before the Chinese Company came.
He called for solving the problem amicably rather than the way it is being done at the moment.
Moro Colley a fisherman also part of those who fetched fish said since he landed at 11 am he could not finish selling the fish due to the low sales. This native of Gunjur said his fishing boat is large. He said the only place they can earn profit is from the company which buys the fish in cash without any delay. He added that people in the locality buy less and owe them for days before paying them which causes losses to them. He said his parents were born in Gunjur but most of youths forsake the sea because it is unattractive. He said he returned to the sea because of the high income that can be earned from fishing now brought by the company.
Fatima Fatty a fish vendor said her parents were never fishermen nor have they had any involvement in the sea, saying the reason of her coming to the sea is because of the benefit derived. She said she is earning her living from the beach and using that as well to meet her needs and the needs of her family. A native of Sukuta now a resident of Gunjur said the catch cannot be bought by the buyers but only the company.
Speaking to Foroyaa, one Yahya Badjie, an employee (engineer) of the Company said he is from Nuimi Touba Kolong and has been on the Gunjur beach since the year 2003. He added that chemical they apply to the fish is not toxic and when doing so they use their bare hands. He held that the chemicals are applied only to protect the fish powder from spoilage.
A Senegalese man said he has about 80% of his relatives on the Gunjur beach earning their livelihood from the sea. He held that the company attracted them to come to the Gambia to venture into fishing. According to him more than 500 Senegalese are on the Gunjur Beach earning their livelihood from the Chinese Company.
Ebrima Gassama, an old age man said he has 11 children and his main source of livelihood and that of his family is from the Gunjur beach. “Closing the company is closing the livelihood of my family,” he said.
Khadim Bah said the sea is more important than the hotels because the hotels are individual oriented whilst for the sea thousands are deriving their livelihood from it.
Sanna Cham, a captain of a fishing vessel said he has 22 people working under him and earning their living from the sale of these fish to the company. He said the company is the only place where their fish can be bought and there are no available markets and buyers of the fish due to the high quantity of fish they catch.
Many of them said because of the benefit they earned from the Chinese Company it led them to venture into fishing and related activities. Most of the women lamented that they earned their livelihood from the sales at the company that they use to pay the school fees of their children, support their husbands and solve their personal problems. They said the Sea is very important to them and urged the government to intervene to solve the problem amicably.