EEZ : 10 500 km2
Catches : 40 000 T
Scale Sleet : 1700
Motorization : 37 %
Employment: 30 000
Consumption : 23,3 kg/inhab/year
Exports : 0,31 M USD
Share in exports: 2,68 %
Share in GDP: 2,6
Fishing background in Gambia
Gambia is one of the smallest countries along the West African coast, lying between latitude 130° and 140 north, with a surface area of roughly 11 300 km² stretching over a strip of land 25 to 40 km wide. The country is bordered to the north, south and east by Senegal and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. With an annual population growth rate of close to 3%, its population was estimated at 1.52 million in 2005, of which only 26% live in urban areas.
Gambia’s territorial waters extend over 12 miles and harbours an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles. Its continental shelf covers over 4 000 km² and an EEZ of next to 10 500 km². The estuary areas are home to 67 000 km² of very thick mangrove forest spreading over 200 km² into the lands from the mouth of the Gambia River. They are reproduction and grow-out grounds for commercial fish species, shrimp and other high-value fishery resources.
Fisheries are of extremely important both socially and economically as a source of long-lasting jobs and proteins not only for the fishing communities but also for the country as a whole. Although the annual per capita gross fish consumption is estimated at 25 kg compared with 8.2 kg in the rest of Africa, fish consumption remains much higher in the coastal areas than in the hinterlands.
With a contribution to GDP estimated at 2.5% in 2005 by the Central Statistics Department, the fishing sector is predominantly in the hands of foreign operators.
The Ministry in charge of fisheries in The Gambia is the “Gambian Ministry of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters”, whose policies are implemented by the Fishery Department based on the legal and regulatory provisions afforded by the Gambia Fishery Act (2007) and the implementing orders thereof (Fishery Regulations, 2008).
The Fishery Department was set up in 1967 with the aim of developing the fishery sector through five-year development plans.
The objectives of these plans were reviewed under the Economic Recovery Programme (1985 to 1989), then under the Sustainable Development Programme in the 1990s, and in 1994 when drawing up Gambia’s Fishery Sector Strategic Plan (1994-95 to 2004 and 2009-2013). This strategic plan was based on the premise that the fishery sector held immense potential and could contribute substantially to the country’s socioeconomic development subject to embarking on a judicious management, rational and sustainable production methods, and an efficient use of the apparently abundant existing stocks (cf. the Catch Assessment Report - 2008).
Overview of resources
The potential catch in Gambia’s waters was estimated in 2003 at 285 000 tonnes of small pelagics and 22 000 tonnes of demersal species.
A downward trend in the demersal stocks biomass has been noticed, although generally-speaking, one can conclude that most of the high market value species are threatened by overfishing. Catch per unit effort (CPUE) trends for most of the demersal fish species are on the decline, as available CPUE data indicate that Bellotti pagellus stocks are fully exploited. Croakers and catfish stocks are threatened by overfishing, while grouper stocks are overexploited and threatened with extinction.
As to shrimp, CPUE data indicate that stocks have been fully exploited.
Shrimp and fish trawlers have a substantial amount of bycatches comprising large quantities of small fish that are thrown back into the sea.
The declining catches and the thirst to optimise gains have led to negative practices, which have contributed to the quick depletion of resources. These include especially the use of illegal fishing methods to improve fishing gear capacities and increase catches, such as the use in the past of small-mesh nets by artisanal fishermen.
The pelagic stocks biomass indicates that the state of stocks calls for concern despite supply fluctuations that are not an abnormal phenomenon for these migratory pelagic stocks.
Two types of fishing are practised in The Gambia, namely artisanal fishing and industrial fishing.
Artisanal fishing is characterised by the use of small fishing vessels, mainly comprising a fleet of roughly 2 000 canoes plying the sea and river fisheries. Between 1997 and 2003, annual artisanal catches were estimated at 29 000 tonnes on average, with next to 70% of the landings made up of pelagics. Artisanal fishing provides direct and indirect jobs to some 25 000 to 30 000 persons, and is practised at 80% along the Atlantic coast and 20% along the banks of the Gambia River.
Industrial fishing is practised on a lower scale than artisanal fishing, and the sub-sector provides some 1 500 to 2 000 jobs. However, close to 200 000 people depend heavily on this fishing and its related activities.
Due to the systematic policy to reduce the fishing pressure on demersal fishery resources, the number of permits granted to industrial fishing boats dropped from 120 in 1990 to roughly 70 between 1994 and 2001. Annual industrial catches stayed at roughly 8 500 since 1992, dropping drastically from 23 000 tonnes, primarily due to the discontinuation of a fishing targeting stocks other than small pelagics only and, to a lesser extent, the reduction in the number of authorised fishing vessels. The industrial fleet is primarily made up of foreign vessels, and virtually all of the industrial catches are landed in foreign country ports.
From 2010 statistics, 24 industrial vessels fished in Gambian waters. To perform this activity, operators must obtain a permit from the fishery department.
Access to resources
There are basically three types of access rights to industrial fishery resources, namely the Joint Venture by obtaining a fishing licence upon registration of the vessel with the port authorities; the Letter of fishing agreement which involves reciprocity rights like the one between The Gambia and Senegal whereby Senegalese operators are authorised to fish 1 250 tonnes of lobsters yearly in Gambian waters; and thirdly compensatory agreements including those with the European Union, which have, however, been suspended since 1996.