I am writing to you to express my concern about the adverse socio-economic and environmental human rights impact that overfishing by different fishing actors is having on the Gambian coast, in particular in the community of Sanyang.
I am aware that the fishing industry plays an important part in the Gambian economy. The communities in coastal towns in Gambia such as the Sanyang community, rely heavily on pelagic fishes, those fishes living near the ocean’s surface or their daily protein intake, as well as their economic activities. However, over the past few years the fishing industry has been prompting overfishing with adverse socio-economic and environmental impacts.
The economic and social rights of the local people, in particular the right to food and the right to work are threatened because of the activities of all fishing actors; actors such as trawlers from other countries that sometimes practice illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and fishmeal factories.
The activities of industrial boats (legal and illegal) as well as the fishmeal factories contributed to the reduction of marine resources over the years. Fish, especially bonga and sardinella, due to their affordability, represent the most important source of animal protein for the local population. Artisanal fishermen also complain about their fishnets being cut down daily by foreign industrial boats coming closer to the shore than authorized, thereby causing substantial economic loss. As a result, artisanal fish processors and fish traders are also impacted by fish scarcity and the rising cost of fish, as well as restaurant owners. They all have expressed frustration over the reduced availability of fish in the past five years.
Fishmeal factories also contribute to adverse socio-economic and environmental human rights impact. In Gambia,so far there are three fishmeal and fish oil factories. Those factories turn pelagic fishes, such as bonga and sardinella, into fish oil or a powder called fishmeal that they then export to feed farm animals or voracious fishes in Asia, America and Europe. In fact, the industry needs a significant amount of fish: it takes about 4.5kg of fish to make 1kg of fishmeal. Nessim Fishing and Fish Processing Co Ltd (Nessim), the fishmeal and fish oil company operating in Sanyang since 2018 targets the pelagic fishes most consumed by the local population, thereby threatening the availability of those fishes in the local market.
There are also specific community complaints about potential environmental, economic and social impact due to the activity of the Nessim fishmeal factory in Sanyang. Women working in the gardens behind the factory alleged that their productivity diminished since the factory opened due to an increase in pests infecting their vegetables, which they attribute to the pollution coming from the factory. As a result, they are struggling to grow vegetables, especially tomatoes and have seen their profit decreased. Owners of restaurants, lodges and juice bars also claim to be negatively impacted by the factory. They say they lose clients due to the noxious smell coming from thefactory when it is operating, which reaches the lodges and restaurants along the beach.
In addition, all fishing actors also contribute to environmental damage, notably by fishing some species that are already overexploited. Overfishing contributes to the risk of food insecurity in the country.I would like to remind you as well that the Gambian government has a duty to protect its citizens against human rights abuses by all actors including companies. As such, the government should ensure proper monitoring of Gambia waters against illegal and unregulated fishing and pass legislation requiring companies to conduct human rights due diligence in their operations and supply chains. Finally, an investigation into the potential socio-economic and environmental impacts associated with the activities of the factory must be conducted and if found to be in breach provide remedies accordingly.