The situation on the ground in The Gambia keeps on declining day by day. The latest scandal in town is the situation at the fisheries department. We would like to shed light on this scandal since the fisheries department was one of the last revenue generating departments in The Gambia besides the port and income taxes. We are also convinced that the dictator does not know about this situation and that once he will find out he will use his broom to regulate this misconduct quickly.
The situation is as follows. The fresh minister of fishing and Presidential Affairs / Secretary General NYABALLY in close conduct with the director of fisheries MATAR BAH are busy to change the regulations of the licensing of industrial fishing trawlers, which want to apply for a permit to fish in The Gambia waters single handedly.
As the readers of the FREEDOM NEWSPAPER must know the licensing of industrial fishing trawlers is a highly regulated process with many rules and boundaries. Vessels that want to be licensed will be inspected to measure the mesh size of their nets, the safety situation on board will be checked, vessels will get a license to fish for a certain type of seafood (shrimps, bottom fish, pelagic fish or fish that comes on the surface like tuna) and most importantly they get limits where to fish to protect the fishing grounds of the local canoes. To acquire the license the companies must pass the inspections, have to appoint a local agent, they will have to pay a (considerable) license fee which can go up to US$ 25,000 to US$ 100,000 per vessel annually depending on the Gross Tonnage of a vessel, a certain percentage of crew has to have the Gambian nationality (the crews are recruited via the association of Gambian sailors) and the industrial trawlers have to pay 10 (!!!) % of all catches to the government of The Gambia as an additional tax if they off-load the catches outside The Gambia. As everybody can imagine this is an expensive business to be in with high investments. All investments have to be done before you catch 1 fish. If everything is ready the fisheries department will appoint a Gambian observer who will be stationed on the vessel during the entire license period and this observer will check the catches and check if the vessels will fish in the agreed zone.
Most industrial trawlers that fish in the Gambian waters are off-loading their catches in Senegal. Simply because the infrastructure in Senegal is much better for fish than it is in The Gambia. In Senegal there are buyers (with cash) standing ready in the port to buy the catches of the vessels, there are cold-stores to stock frozen fish, vessels can buy fuel duty free (which they are not able to do so in The Gambia), there are a lot of ice plants in Senegal which can supply ice within 1 hour, there is electricity in Senegal 24 hours a day, there are a lot of international companies represented in Senegal who repair vessels (companies like Caterpillar, Cummins eg), there are stores where vessels can buy nets and other requirements for their operations. Many reasons why vessels off-load their catches in Senegal and send 10% of the catches back to the government of The Gambia by truck or they come to Banjul to off-load the 10% tax once per month.
All and all together the license to fish in The Gambia is the most expensive one in the whole sub-region, especially because of the 10% landing tax and because vessels are losing a lot of time (and therefore money) if they have to go to Banjul to off-load.
NYABALLY and MATAR BAH decided in all their wisdom that the above rules were not enough yet. They came up with new rules. All industrial vessels who have a license to fish in The Gambia have to land 50% of their catches in The Gambia now and on top of that they pay 10% landing tax to the Gambian government.
The results of this unilateral policy made by NYABALLY and BAH are as follows:
- Since May (!) 2015 no vessel has been licensed caused millions of US$ damage to the economy of The Gambia in loss of revenues. No industrial fishing vessel can apply to these new rules set by NYABALLY and BAH because there is NO chance that they can make anything and / or operate their vessel normally with these rules,
- Since May (!) 2015 all Gambian sailors and observers employed to work on industrial fishing trawlers are therefor out of job causing a direct loss of employment of 800 to 900 people with massive consequences for the sailors, observers but also the families of the sailors and observers who depend on their daily bread and butter on the people with a job,
- The level of piracy is on the increase. Many unlicensed (mainly Chinese) vessels are fishing in The Gambia and stealing the fish from the country. The (Chinese) vessels have spotters who will call them as soon as the navy vessel will go out on patrol. As soon as they get this news they will leave the waters of The Gambia. Unconfirmed rumors from a reliable source state that highly placed people close to the corridors of power are facilitating this illegal piracy fishing also……,
The Association of Gambian Sailors (short AGS) have written to the president on many occasions to ask for his immediate attention of their plight but to no avail. All letters are intercepted by NYABALLY and MATAR BAH. The AGS mainly consist of very loyal APRC GREEN YOUTHS who are the grass root of the support of the dictator and they are very, very confused why they deserve a treatment like this.
Main question in this saga is why NYABALLY and MATAR BAH are implementing policies like this while all stakeholders (AGS, association of licensed agents in The Gambia and senior officials at the department of fisheries) are advising them against it.
Nobody understands why NYABALLY and MATAR BAH continue with this new policies from which it is clear already that nobody can work with them and that nobody will follow suit. Even the 10% which is being landed now can’t be handled by the department of fisheries (responsible for the marketing of this fish) simply because it is too much for the market of The Gambia and because there are no buyers ready to put down the cash for this fish. It will be better if industrial vessels are being asked to pay the 10% only in cash.
There are even a few vessels with the Senegalese nationality who paid for their license before May but they still did not get a license. These industrial vessels are asking their money back now but at no avail – WHERE ARE THE FUNDS Mr. NYABALLY and Mr. MATAR BAH – we know you can’t account for them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is another example of a sector of the economy of The Gambia being mismanaged by unqualified individuals who are unilaterally looking for quick money and leave thousands of people unemployed and / or with nu support behind them. SHAME ON YOU NYABALLY and MATAR BAH.
Written by An Insider Banjul