Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters, Mr. Amadou Saine at the opening ceremony said that The Gambia is blessed with abundant fisheries resources and that the sustainable management and utilization of these resources can yield substantial economic and social benefits to the people involved in the fisheries market value chain as well as to Gambia Government. These, he continued, could be in terms of increased revenue and foreign exchange earnings from exports of fish and fishery products.
Permanent Secretary Saine noted that there are several economic, financial social and technical constraints that are impeding the sustainable development of the fisheries sector and this need to be addressed.
“This comparative cost study on the sole fish was commissioned by the USAID/Ba-Nafaa project to assess the impact of the cross-border trade of Gambian sole fish to Senegal to fully understand the market context and the opportunities for improving the marketing system to benefit more fully Gambian fisherman, fish processors and fish exporters should be look into the said areas,” stated Saine. He said the study concentrated on sole fish but it is known that other high value fish species that are caught and landed in Gambia are also finding their way cross the border to fish factories in Dakar for processing and export as products of Senegal.
The movement of fish across the border, as the Fisheries PS said, constitutes a huge economic loss for Gambia, positing that it is our duty to try and understand the reasons why this is happening.
“We are highly appreciative of the USAID/Ba-Nafaa Project support to the Fisheries Department and the fishing industry to meet the eligibility criteria for certification of the sole fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC),” he stressed.
According to him, the sole fishery will be the first artisanal fishery in Africa to be awarded the MSC eco-label, a remarkable achievement and important milestone in the sustainable development of the fisheries sector.
He pointed out that this positive development should provide enough motivation for us to safeguarded the precious fisheries resources and ensure that they are managed and utilized in a rational and sustainable manner that will yield optimal benefits for the Gambia.
Mr. Ousman Drammeh, Project Manager of the USAID/Ba-Nafaa dilated on the USAID/Ba-Nafaa project in The Gambia, saying that in 2010 the USAID/Ba-Nafaa project commissioned a value chain assessment of the sole fishery.
Drammeh explained that the project revealed that an unknown quantity of sole that is caught and landed in The Gambia is being trans-shipped to Senegal for processing in Senegalese fish factories and subsequent export.
Based on these facts, Drammeh stated, a comparative study was commissioned to better understand the market context of the cross border trade in sole fish and the reasons for the trade. He pointed out that, the USAID/Ba-Nafaa project is here to assist and complement the Gambia government efforts to meet its fisheries management and development objectives since the start up of the project two years ago.
In addition, the project has been supporting the Fisheries Department and fishing industry to meet the eligibility criteria for certification of sole fishery by MSC, and there is a high probability that the eligibility criteria will be met during the course of this year - 2012.
Mr. Nfamara Dampha, Director of Fisheries Department said this MSC eco-label, if awarded, would open new market opportunities for the Gambian sole fish, informing that “already there is evidence of this as a chain of 100 fish retailers in Germany have raised money to support the certification processes”.
Several fish retailers in United Kingdom have also expressed interest to purchase the Gambian sole fish when the eco-label is awarded, said Dampha.
Mr. Moustapha DEME, the lead consultant said the methodology that was used for the study included literature review, focus group discussions and interviews, and consultations.
This methodology, DEME said was applied both in The Gambia and Senegal. He also said a holistic and integrated approach to the study was adopted and all administrations involved directly or indirectly to sole fish trade have been visited.
Regarding both The Gambia and Senegal, Consultant DEME stated that the sole fishery has an artisanal and an industrial components. In The Gambia, he noted that the artisanal fishing fleet land catches in the country but the industrial fleet which is composed of foreign owned fish/cephalopod trawlers do not land their catches in The Gambia. For that of Senegal, he said there is an artisanal fishing fleet and a very important national trawling fishery has been active since 2006, next to a foreign fleet operating under the fishing agreement with the European Union.