Markets in The Gambia currently suffer a prolonged shortage of fish supply for domestic consumption attributed by many vendors to the low turn-out of foreign small boat suppliers. Many fishermen getting catches for local gambian markets with those boats are non Gambian nationals currently trapped away from gambian seashores due to border closure in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to studies revealed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Enhanced Integration Framework in 2014, foreign fishermen mainly Senegalese form the majority along the Gambian fishing coast. In July, most of these active people left the gambian territory to observe the Muslim feast locally known as Tobaski. They got stranded since, creating causing deficit on the supply chain.
The fish vendors in Tanji are now calling for the return of these foreign fishermen to ensure a proper business flow. “Many fishermen here always go back to their countries when Tobaski approaches. Even the Senegalese fishermen I work with here went to their country. Due to the border closure, they’re unable to come back. That’s why fish is scarce in the markets,” said Alieu Jatta, a fisherman at Tanji, tells The Chronicle.
According to Roseline Gomez, a fish vendor, the boats that are available currently can only catch small fish because they cannot travel into deep sea. She says their business is at stand still. “Before, the business was going well but now it’s hard with fish becoming expensive. Now we buy a pan of fish at a price between six to seven thousand dalasis. Before, we used to pay fir three to four thousand. Things are difficult here” she lamented
The fishing sector provides employment to over six thousand fishmen and assistant fishermen. Out of over six thousand head fishermen, (57 percent) are Gambians and (43 percent) foreigners, according to UNCTAD.
Batch Sowe wishes to see more Gambian youths embrace fishing activity as one way to stop the dependency on foreign nationals. “If we had more youths trained to go fishing, I believe that it would address the situation. Fish would become cheaper and even whereas foreign non Gambian fishermen are not around, we will be able to carry out fishing activities and prevent a break in the supply. You can see that to buy fish now is very expensive. Customers would come but when you charge them on retail, they think otherwise as they don’t know that we also get the wholesale fish at a high price.”
With meat generally unaffordable for many consumers, fish becomes the most accessible regular alternative for the survival of many households in the country. It is further a good source of protein for consumers.
“Fish has been scarce in the market recently. If you ask for the price of fish, theretailers charge 100 dalasis to get 4 small fishes. Buying chicken is even better which I do sometimes if I don’t find anything in the market. The market is expensive nowadays,” Sainabou Jobe, a buyer, tells The Chronicle.
In an effort to encourage youngsters into the sector, The Gambia government has handed over 14 fishing boats last month to the Banjul Barra fishing site.
The present trend of youth disengagement in the sector could affect the government’s official anticipation to increase fish and fish products exports from 32 to 43 percent.