Priority Fishing Sectors:
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
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 on land.
Other institutions and stakeholders involved in Fisheries
Fisheries Centre Management
Community Based Organizations;
Gambia Artisanal Fisheries Development Association
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 and cephalopods.
Varieties such as bonga, sardinella, red mullet shads
catfish, jacks carangids and snappers live in deeper
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, Tanji, Sanyang, Gunjur and Bakau,
and the riverbank villages of Albreda, Bintang, Kemoto
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
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
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 manner.
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 activities.
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.
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 public interventions.
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 fisheries resources; 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
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 non-performing/non-viable companies.
The minimum mesh sizes for nets of industrial fishing
trawlers are as follows:
for demersal fish
species 70 mm
for pelagic fish species - 40
for shrimps - 50 mm
tuna seine nets -
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
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
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.
fish Species Biomass: 1992
Flat sardinella 10,000
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
Croakers 400 metric tons
9,200 metric tons
Carangids 5,400 metric tons
Dories 250 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 production.
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 waters.
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
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
Role of Fisheries in The Economy:
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
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 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.