As the Inter-Sectoral Taskforce Committee set up by the government continues to investigate the causes and effects of the biggest oil spill ever in the country, oyster collectors say they have been forced to abandon their work.
On Sunday 12th June 2022, this reporter was among close to a dozen journalists who accompanied committee members embarking on an intensive clean-up exercise of the spillage.
Oyster collectors took the opportunity to recount their current situation triggered by the over 70, 000 liters of Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) leaked into the River Gambia related to the recent operations of GamPetroleum.
Oyster collectors found at the Creek-side at Kunkujang Jattaya said many of their colleagues have stopped work since the oil spill occurred, as it has affected the mangrove swamps and made them dangerous to venture into.
They said most women who engage in the oyster collection are now seating at home, and that it is the same situation for oyster collectors in the riverine settlements of Mandinary, Kunkujang Jattaya, Kubuneh, Kembujeh, Bonto and Pirang.
“I’m a native of this village (Kunkujang Jattaya) and I have been working here for the past seven (7) years, but right now, we are not into any work here since this oil spill occurred.
“The spilled oil is all over the mangroves where oysters inhabit making it dangerous to have access and collect oysters for sale,” 77-year-old Jankey Jatta said.
Atongnye Jatta, 63, a native of the Kunkujang Jattaya village, said she has been collecting oysters for more than 20 years. Ambeeyas Sanyang said the oil spill has made them voluntarily cease their activities, and this will have adverse effects on their business and livelihood.
She called for oyster collectors to be compensated for the damage caused by the oil spill.
Meanwhile, Lamin Komma, the Head of Coastal and Marine Environment at the National Environmental Agency (NEA), briefing committee members admitted that there is a “‘potential environmental disaster’. I think for now what we can recommend is to do an environmental assessment.”
He said the oil spill will not only affect the oysters but fish species and marine creatures that survive in the tributaries in all the areas affected.