No surveillance boats to be ordered from Damen Shipyard Group of Netherlands through the Gambia-EU Fishing Agreement in 2018, expected in February 2019, have arrived in the country.
The surveillance vessels monitored fishing trawlers, vessels, and boats’ activities and intercepted boats engaging in illegal fishing within Gambia’s 200 nautical territorial waters.
TAT investigations have also revealed that the agreement failed to construct and equip two monitoring centers for ships operating in the country’s territorial waters.
It would be recalled that in January 2019, the former Fisheries minister, James Furmos Gomez announced that the Gambia government reached an agreement with the Damen Shipyard Group.
This was to supply two patrol vessels to boost monitoring of the territorial waters and prevent losses from the sector.
He added that the vessels would arrive in The Gambia in February 2019, as agreed with the Damen Shipyard Group.
Over the past six months, TAT has asked to interview ministry officials about the vessels but has failed to succeed. TAT has, however, spoken to stakeholders within the sector.
Alieu Saine, president of the Bakau Fishermen Association, told TAT that he is not aware of the arrival of the promised surveillance vessels nor the construction of any monitoring center apart from the one at the Department of Fisheries in Banjul.
He said local fishermen have long asked for surveillance vessels and monitoring centers, like in Mauritania and Guinea Bissau.
Saine, who has been in the industry since 1995, lamented the lack of adequate surveillance and monitoring of the activities of trawlers and other vessels in the country.
He added that this continues to affect the livelihood of fishermen negatively and that the Naval authorities have a lot of reports of the destruction of the fishing nets of artisanal fishermen.
Meanwhile, an insider at the Department of Fisheries in Banjul claimed that the Ministry never ordered the Damen Shipyard Group to supply two surveillance vessels.
He described the announcement of procuring the vessels and constructing two monitoring centers in Banjul and Bakau as “false and misleading.”
This country depends entirely on the Monitoring Center at the Department of Fisheries, which continues to need more than is required to work effectively and efficiently.
However, Malang Darboe, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Fisheries, said efforts were made to get surveillance vessels from the Damen Shipyard Group.
He said the deal could not go through “largely due to a stringent procurement process” at the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA).
Darboe also informed TAT that the monitoring centers were not constructed due to the huge cost.
TAT was referred to Momodou S. Jallow, the focal person for sectoral support of the Gambia-EU Fishing Agreement, and Anna Menga Cham, the Director Department of Fisheries. Still, both would not speak on the matter, referring our reporter back to the Ministry.
On October!19th, 2018, the Gambia government and the European Union (EU) signed a new fishing agreement called the Sustainable Fishing Partnership Agreement (SFPA) to replace a previous agreement that had elapsed.
“This new fisheries agreement allows EU vessels to fish in Gambian waters and thus extended the network of tuna fisheries agreements in West Africa.
“The new protocol covers six (6) years and will allow EU vessels to fish 3300 tonnes of tuna and tuna-like species and 750 tonnes of hake per year in the Gambian waters.
“In return, the EU will pay the Gambia a financial contribution of 550 000 € per year.
“Half of this yearly contribution will be used to strengthen the sustainable management of fisheries resources and the development of the Gambian fishing sector,” according to a statement released by the EU.
Many Gambians have since been criticizing the new fishing agreement, saying the protocol will give unfettered access to European companies to fish in the Gambia’s territorial waters without equivalent benefits to Gambians.