By Awa B. Bah
The Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources has said that the bilateral reciprocal fishing agreement between the Gambia and Senegal is not new. The minister made this remark while responding to oral questions raised by the nominated member of the National Assembly, Ya Kumba Jaiteh, followed by supplementary questions, during the questions and answers of the second ordinary session of the National Assembly, in the 2017 Legislative year, in Banjul.
According to the Minister, the agreement was established since the 80s, until December 2014, when it was revoked by the former regime. The two countries, he said, have agreed and signed bilateral cooperation agreements in Fisheries and Aquaculture in Banjul, on the 24th day of March 2017, under the following areas: to privatize fisheries operations in each country; exchange of scientific information and the coordination of research programs to ensure national and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources; promote and develop aquaculture through joint projects and to encourage private initiatives in the area; provision of reciprocal assistance in the training of nationals of both countries in specialized schools and oceanographic research centers and the sustainable management and development of fisheries resources.
The Minister informed the assembly that for the first time in the history of the reciprocal bilateral agreement, Senegal licensed fishing vessels shall be landing four tones of their catch with the government of the Gambia. This, he said, was anticipated during the term of the agreement and a total of twenty five Gambians working in government and fisheries organizations will have their capacities developed in various fisheries disciplines.
Within the framework of the agreement, the Minister said government shall seek assistance in the areas of fisheries governance, fisheries economics, aquaculture development, post-harvest fisheries technology, monitoring in aquaculture and wild catch fishery products and fisheries research and development.
The agreement he said, established a technical monitoring committee and its implementing protocol is composed of representatives and experts of the two governments and economic operators of both countries, adding that Gambian nationals will every year undergo a three year training course in the sister Republic of Senegal and the cost of the training package will include accommodation.
The technical monitoring committee, he said, shall meet annually for implantation and monitoring of the cooperation’s programs, submit proposals on further development and improvement of cooperation forms, as well recommend possible ways for overcoming difficulties faced during the implementation of the cooperation activities.
The government of Senegal, he said, affirms to support competent Gambian authorities for the establishment of institutional, legal and statutory mechanisms favorable for the promotion of aquaculture.
In his response to the concerns raised by the member for Kiang West, kebbba N L. Colley, on the criteria and conditions given to foreign and local vessels in acquiring licenses, the minister said the industrial fisheries sub sector which involves the operations of local and foreign investors is regulated, adding that the procedures and guidelines leading to investing and operating in the sub sector includes registration of the business, the type of investment as well as it’s contribution in national socio economic development.
The Minister further revealed that there are other sets of criteria to be fulfilled before an application for a fishing license is approved and subsequently issued; that this includes the possession of a valid seaworthy certificate issued by the Gambia Maritime Administration, GMA.
He informed members that pre licensing inspection is conducted by the monitoring, control and surveillance unit of the fisheries department, adding that this is a technical inspection to determine the technical requirements as specified in the fisheries legislation.
Following the fulfillment of the pre licensing inspection, the Minister said an application for a fishing license is then submitted to the ministry for approval; that payment of the correct fishing license fees by the applicant to the accountants’ generals department through the central bank of the Gambia will be effected, after approval.
The Minister said approvals are addressed to the applicant and copied to the offices of the Ministry of Defense, the Commander of the Gambia Navy, the Secretary General Office of the President, the Office of the Auditor General, and the Office of the Accountant General, Association of the Gambia Fishing Companies and the Association of Gambian Sailors.
The Minister further explained that there are two types of fishing license and fees depending on whether it is a locally or foreign registered company. Local fishing licenses, he said, are issued to locally registered Gambian fishing vessels while foreign fishing license are issued to foreign registered fishing vessels through Gambian fishing companies.
He informed members that 25% of the crew on board foreign registered vessels must be Gambian nationals including a Gambian fisheries observer, while the crew for local fishing vessel issued with a fishing license, must be Gambian nationals including the fisheries observer.
Responding to the concerns of the Member for Lower Niumi on the Ministry’s plans to control Illegal fishing, the Minister said Illegal Unregulated and Unreported fishing, IUU, is a global problem and the Gambia is not an exception to this; that it is happening both at the artisanal and industrial levels of Gambian fisheries.
He further informed members of the assembly that the Ministry is aware of the illegal activities but the Department of Fisheries as well as the Gambia Navy are technically, physically and financially constrained to adequately implement the fisheries Act 2007, and the fisheries regulations 2008, as well as to continuously conduct monitoring and surveillance and the necessary enforcement leading to the elimination of IUU in our waters.
In his response to the supplementary question raised by the Member Foni Bintang Karanai on how many foreign and local vessels were in the Gambia, the Minister said there are ten registered vessels fishing in Gambian waters and the duration of their licenses is three months; that the ministry plans to review the legislation.
Responding to the supplementary question raised by the nominated member on the condition of issuing and monitoring of licenses, the minister said there are fisheries observers who will always monitor the activities daily and report to the department of fisheries to make sure that all regulations are adhered to.
The member for Wuli East raised a supplementary question on the Ministry’s improvement of fish landing sites in order to reduce the price of fish, the Minister said there are plans to improve the fish landing sites, adding that there are challenges faced by the ministry as fuel, storage and ice is expensive and because of this, most of them will prefer to offload to cheaper areas.
The Member for Wuli East further asked about plans for the fishing villages to be in control of the fishing areas since there are foreigners fishing illegally in the country, the minister revealed that they have already empowered people to control the issue of illegal fishing at the community level and communicate with the ministry; that the Gambia is not the only country faced with the problem of illegal fishing.