Priority fishing Sectors:
The Gambia Government's fisheries body is made up of the Fisheries
Department under the auspices of the Department of State
for Fisheries, Natural Resources and the Environment. The
Department of State is responsible for overall policy planning
and guidance for the fisheries sector. The Fisheries Department,
as the technical institution, administers and implements the
national fisheries development and management plan within
the overall natural resources sector.
As The Fisheries Department is mandated to plan, manage and
develop the fisheries sector throughout the country, the Department
caters for fisheries policy and legislations frameworks. It
provides advice and service to fishing people, businesses
and national and international institutions and organisations.
It is responsible for protection and development of the resources
and for monitoring, control and surveillance of all fisheries
and fisheries-related activities within fisheries waters and
Other institutions and stakeholders involved in Fisheries
Centre Management committees;
Artisanal Fisheries Development Association (GAMFIDA);
NGO; and Association of Industrial
The fishing sector has significant potential for further development
in The Gambia. Although it has a coastline
of only 80 km, its waters can be fished year round and are
relatively well populated by a wide variety of demersal and
pelagic fish and crustaceans. There is a reciprocal agreement
with Senegal which allows licenced vessels from each country
to fish in each others waters.
Fisheries in The Gambia are divided into two sub-sectors:
A) The artisanal
sub-sector which is widely dispersed throughout the
country and is mainly based on pirogues (canoes) with outboard
engines. There are approximately 1,800 such boats in The Gambia.
B) The industrial
sub-sector which comprises a small number of, mainly
foreign owned, trawlers. In 2001 there were 57 such boats
and one factory ship licenced to fish in Gambia waters.
Total annual fish production in 2002 was circa 43,000 metric
tones (mt), of which only 573 tonnes was exported in 2003.
Most exports are aimed at EU markets. It is believed that
the Maximum Sustainable Yield for all species in Gambian territorial
waters stands at between 150,000 mt. and 200,000 mt.
Species of Fish in Gambian Waters:
Bottom living fish such as sole, grunts, sea- breams, carangids
Varieties such as bonga, sardinella, red mullet shads catfish,
jacks carangids and snappers live in deeper water.
Currently frozen shrimps and prawns account for over one third
of all fish exports.
Landing & Processing Facilities:
There is no dedicated fish landing pier in The Gambia, although
there are some limited facilities at Banjul Port.
Fish are often loaded onto pirogues which use one of the many
landing points along the coast.
There are nine fish processing companies (with a capacity
of between 5 and 10 metric tones per day) most of which are
currently operating below capacity.
The artisanal subsector is highly diverse, incorporating marine,
estuarine and freshwater fishing operations. The majority
of the communities located along the Atlantic coastline and
close to the River Gambia
and tributaries engage in some form of artisanal fishing activity,
the more prominent communities include the coastal villages
of Kartong, Brufut,
Gunjur and Bakau,
and the riverbank villages of Albreda, Bintang, Kemoto and
This sub-sector offers greater potential of making a positive
immediate impact on the country's long-term development goals
of achieving equitable income distribution consistent with
a generalized improvement in rural nutritional status.
This subsector engages in extensive low-input fishing practices,
using surrounding and bottom gill nets, hand and long lining,
cast nets and stow nets and a few artisanal purse seiners
targeting species in all four main stock categories (i.e.
pelagics, demersal, cephalopods and crustaceans).
Artisanal fishing crafts are predominantly dug-out canoes
along the river, and planked dug-out canoes of the Senegalese
type along the marine coast. Fibreglass fishing canoes have
recently been introduced in coastal artisanal fisheries. Artisanal
fishing activities are active in both marine and river areas.
Management measures focus on the role of the sub-sector in:
providing fish for local consumption and improved nutrition;
employment generation and improved incomes; the integration
of women in the development process as equal beneficiaries
and partners; the organization of fisher folks into strong
and viable interest groups capable of ensuring conformity
with fisheries rules and regulations; in providing information
and feed back to Government and participating in the planning,
design and implementation of development projects and programmes.
The artisanal fish catch is either sold among the local communities
for processing (drying and smoking) or is transported and
marketed in major towns and villages in the hinterland. The
processed fishery products are transported and sold in inland
markets, and some is exported to neighbouring countries. A
proportion of the artisanal fish catch of high value (shrimps,
soles, sea breams, lobsters) are purchased by industrial fishing
companies for processing and export abroad. An estimated 30000
people derive employment from the artisanal subsector.
Industrial Fishing Sector:
Industrial fisheries activities involve use of high-cost fish-production
systems (fish trawlers), as well as high-cost processing systems
(fish factories). There are about 20 locally registered fishing
companies. Although the number keeps increasing, only 11 companies
have so far managed to invest in fish factories. Seven fish
factories have now been certified to process and export to
EU countries. The remaining fish factories have not yet satisfied
the regulations governing fish processing establishments.
Only three fishing companies have managed to acquire fishing
trawlers; the rest of the companies depend solely on supplies
from artisanal fishermen to feed the fish factories (there
is always undersupply and factories operate below capacity).
Industrial sub-sector targets four stock categories (pelagic,
demersal, cephalopods and crustaceans). However, they fish
mainly demersal fish species, which are processed and exported.
The fishing companies operate industrial fishing vessels (shrimp
trawlers, demersal trawlers) under licence, but the majority
of these vessels do not land their catches in the Gambia because
of lack of a fisheries port. Performance of the sub-sector
is below expectations due mainly to the fact that industrial
fishing companies are lacking in managerial and technical
capability and capacity and are also lacking financial resources
to operate viable industrial fisheries establishments. There
is also the absence of well defined management plans based
on identified objectives and strategies pursued in a concerted
The Government strategy for the development of the industrial
fisheries sector covers employment creation; increased revenue
and foreign exchange earnings; human resources development;
development of value-added fish products; implementing a standard
code of hygiene and quality for fish processing establishments;
and increased monitoring, surveillance and control of fishing
There exist immediate opportunities for vessel operator/traders
to supply the existing processing plants with fish, either
by supplying fish under contract, or on some form of joint
venture basis with the plants. There are also longer term
opportunities for companies with an established market presence
to source product, either raw or processed from The Gambia.
Investment Opportunities & Incentives:
The fisheries sector is one of those productive sectors that
offer prospects for immediate return on investments. However,
certain constraints, coupled with the complexity of the riverine
and marine fisheries resources, limit the sector's potentials
and contributions to the national economy.
The rapid development of the sector, therefore, must rely
on a sound research-based management system that recognizes
the biological limitations of the resource base and the urgency
of improving the productivity of public and private investments
to generate sustainable growth. Although fisheries resources
are renewable, they are subject to over-exploitation, and
to the influence of environmental factors. Thus the under-pinning
principle of the management system is the enforcement of judicious
and rational practices consistent with the optimum exploitation
and utilization of fish resources.
Fisheries Sector Overview:
Broad objectives and strategy:-
Fisheries development policies evolved during the
two national Five-Year Development Plans (1985 to
1995), when government
defined fisheries development policies to direct
The broad objectives were reviewed for the
Economic Recovery Programmes (ERP) (1985-1989) and the
subsequent Programme for Sustained Development (PSD) of the
1990s. A Fisheries Management and Implementation Plan for the
Fisheries Sector was elaborated in 1989 and was replaced by the
Strategic Plan for the Fisheries Sector 1994/1995-2004. The
policy objectives of the fisheries sector are in perfect harmony
with the national development objectives for the Agriculture and
Natural Resources sector (ANR), as outlined in The Gambia
Incorporated Vision 2020, which is a blueprint for national
development objectives covering a 25-year period (1996-2020).
For a medium term economic policy framework, the government has
articulated a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) setting
out the approach for the eradication of poverty.
To effect rational, long-term utilization of marine and inland
to improve the nutritional standards of the population;
to increase employment opportunities in the sector;
to increase net foreign exchange earnings in the sector;
to improve the economic environment of fisheries with a view to
enhancing the sector's contribution to the national economy;
to develop aquaculture.
Immediate management measurers / controls
are:- systematic reduction and regulation of fishing effort
especially for foreign fishing vessels targeting demersal fish
species; improved MCS (Monitoring, Control, Surveillance) land
and sea; increase in fishing licence fees; critical review of
bilateral fishing agreements; critical review of performances of
fishing companies with the view to eliminating
The minimum mesh sizes for nets of industrial fishing trawlers
are as follows:
for demersal fish species 70 mm
for pelagic fish species - 40 mm
for shrimps - 50 mm
tuna seine nets - 40 mm
tuna gill nets - 60 mm
The Gambia does not make use of closed seasons no TAC in its
fisheries management. Industrial fishing vessels are monitored
through regular patrols by the Gambia Navy to enforce
regulations. For the purpose of resources management and to
reduce conflict between the industrial and artisanal fishing
fleets, fisheries waters of the Gambia have been delineated into
7 and 12-nautical-mile fishing areas. No industrial fishing
vessel is allowed to fish within the 7-n.m. limit, which is
fished by artisanal fishers with environmentally friendly
fishing techniques. The grounds between 7 and 12 n.mi. are
fished by vessels up to 250 GRT capacity, and beyond the 12-n.m.
to the EEZ boundary is open to all licensed vessels
Resource management efforts are also to place special emphasis
on: the shrimp fishery (its biology, population, dynamics,
potential, current level of exploitation, measures to ensure
sustainability and profitability); aquaculture development (fish
pond culture, oyster culture, shrimp farming); protection of the
aquatic environment (water bodies, mangroves and nursery
areas/habitats, protection against pollution); studies on the
resource potentials (feasibility of development of freshwater
fishery); study on impact of granting access of foreign fishing
vessels and, study on plankton abundance and distribution as
source of food for fish.
There are great economic and social benefits associated with the
estuarine shrimp fisheries, including employment and income for
large numbers of rural families and processing workers, as well
as significant foreign exchange earnings. Little information
exists on the shrimp fisheries stock. However, observations of
shrimp catches by artisanal fishermen reveals a high proportion
of juvenile shrimps, which seems to suggest high fishing
pressure and the possible use by (fishermen) of stow nets of
small mesh size.
The immediate task is to conduct a
comprehensive assessment of the oceanic and estuarine shrimp
stocks in order to know their potentials and to determine
optimum exploitation levels.
Government management measures include strict enforcement on the
use of recommended mesh size (50 mm for shrimp trawlers and 25
mm for stow nets), and establishment of industrial shrimp
farming with an emphasis on the breeding of the local shrimp. A
new company West African Aquaculture Limited has purchased the
assets of Scan-Gambia Shrimp Limited. The infrastructure has
been rehabilitated and new equipment and machinery installed
both at the hatchery and at the farm and are operational. The
company is breeding indigenous shrimp species (the pink shrimp).
An important element of shrimp fisheries is community-based
management, including rule-making, arbitration and
conflict resolution. Rules are applied in these
communities regarding exclusive rights to fish a
certain area by an individual fisherman. These users'
rights are obtained by placement of an anchor by
the fishermen themselves at preferred fishing spots.
The value of the rights is indicated by the fact
that they can be sold, inherited or leased. Thus
they are transferable and exclusive to the owner.
Conflicts are rare among shrimp fishermen and when
they arise they are usually resolved among the fishermen
themselves, or arbitrated with the help of village
authorities, elderly shrimpers or a combination.
Pelagic fish Species Biomass: 1992
Flat sardinella 10,000 metric tons
Round sardinella 70,000 metric tons
Horse mackerel 80,000 metric tons
The Biomass estimates for demersal fish is:
Grouper 130 metric tons
Grunts 9,600 metric tons
Croakers 400 metric tons
Sea breams 9,200 metric tons
Carangids 5,400 metric tons
Dories 250 metric tons
Cephalopods 940 metric tons
Total losses in fish, caused by spoilage are estimated at 10 to
12 million tonnes per year, accounting to 10% of the total
Main Fisheries Regulations:
The Fisheries Act 1991 (a revision of the Fisheries Act 1977)
and the Fisheries Regulations 1995 (a revision of the Fisheries
Regulations 1978) constitute the legal instruments for
regulations and control of activities under the sector. The
revisions were necessitated by the observation that the
circumstances under which the 1977 Fisheries Act and the 1978
Fisheries Regulations were promulgated changed significantly in
the 1980s. Specifically, there was a significant growth in both
local and foreign industrial fishing of high-value species, as
well as an increased instances of illegal fishing in Gambian
The legal framework for concerted public-sector intervention in
the fisheries sector is provided under the Fisheries Act of 1991
and the supporting Fisheries Regulations 1995. The Fisheries Act
and Fisheries Regulations provide a framework for harmonizing
private and public roles in the development of the fisheries
sector and they also assist the Department in technical aspects
of the implementation of the fisheries management plan.
The Fisheries Act 1991:
The cluster of issues addressed in the Fisheries
Act 1991 concern territorial and zonal boundaries,
nationality criteria for Gambian vessels, appointment
of agents, control over the import of fishing vessels,
requirement for storage of fishing gear, subscription
to standardization of vessel marking scheme as proposed
by FAO, and associated penalties.
Fisheries access agreements are also treated in
the act and, in addition to being subject to normal
conditions of license, foreign fishing vessels may
be subjected to other controls and conditions aimed
at the protection and conservation of resources
and the promotion of infrastructural development,
training and research.
The Fisheries regulations 1995:
The main issues addressed in the Fisheries Regulations
1995 include conservation measures, aquaculture,
and export of fish. Restricted zones have been more
clearly defined, giving latitudes and longitudes;
and fishing gear restrictions defined, including
a ban on the use of the beach seine, setting of
gill nets around Dog Island, and maintaining minimum
mesh sizes for industrial operations, in order to
conserve the fish resources. Licensing for aquaculture
operations are to enhance biodiversity and to take
account of prospects for commercial development.
All aquaculture and fish processing establishments
must - before an operating permit is issued - provide
a detailed feasibility study that covers all aspects
of their operations, including sources of supplies,
construction, quality control measures, management
and financial analysis.
Present Role of Fisheries in The National Economy of Gambia:
The fisheries sub-sector contributes approximately 12% to the
Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Within the food production sector,
fisheries ranks third after crops and
livestock, with an average
annual contribution of 2.4%. The artisanal fisheries sub-sector
provides direct and indirect employment to an estimated 25-30,000 people and the industrial sub-sector provides employment to
between 1 500 and 2 000 people. The sector contributes about 13%
annually to government revenue. The national fish per caput
consumption average is 25 kg but it is as low as 9 kg in the
inland areas, as fish consumption is highest in coastal areas
where fish production is high.
Investments in Fisheries:
The government has played a significant role in
the development of artisanal fisheries, with donor
assistance. However, private-sector investment
in the industrial fisheries sector has been minimal
due to lack of finance, as most commercial banks
are reluctant to give loans for fisheries activities.
Among the major investments in the industrial fisheries
sector is the African Development Bank loan to the
Government of the Gambia for Fisheries Development
with a component to build a fisheries port in the
capital city of Banjul. This will enable foreign
vessels to land their catches in the Gambia as required
by the fisheries licensing regulations. There are
new fishing companies being formed, but they have
yet to construct onshore facilities, and the existing
companies are operating below capacity because they
rely mostly on supply from artisanal fishermen.
The government has put in place an incentive system for the
fisheries sector (subject to review) that included duty waiver
on fishing inputs with foreign exchange components; duty waiver
on fish exports; and import tax waiver on plant and equipment.
The privilege of duty-free fuel for the fisheries sector was
suspended in 1994.
In 2001, the estimated artisanal fish production was 32016
tonnes, of which 948.8 tonnes was exported and the balance
(31067.2 tonnes) was consumed domestically. For the projection
of fish demand and supply for the next 25 years,
parameters used were 4% population increase, 5% fish production
increase, 3% increase in fish exports and 2% more fish imports.