By Famara Drammeh
In case you are not aware, this is how Chinese Golden Lead operates their fish meal factory in Gunjur and Kartong in West Coast Region of The Gambia. Apart from the marine pollution/discharge of waste into the wetland ecosystem, there are tonnes of our pelagic fisheries being exploited and processed into fish oil and fish meal for export to China and other countries. The interviews in the video clip below was done in the local language but according to the workers on site, sometimes they load over twenty- 40 foot containers of processed fish meal. Each container has a capacity of 400 bags of fish meal, if you multiply that figures by 20 containers, it will definitely equal to 800 bags on daily basis. The pelagic fisheries is the cheapest source of protein for most Gambians, therefore operation of Golden Lead factory is not only threatening the livelihood of our people engaged in artisanal fishing but it is also undermining our efforts in the fight against poverty and food insecurity as a nation. The strength of our economy lies in the fisheries sector, because agriculture and tourism are gradually declining due to climate change, environmental degradation, conflicts in the subregion, disappearance of wildlife and wild areas. If you compare Gambia to all the rest of the countries in the Subregion, you will understand that we have a very good fish stock worth millions of dollars annually. If we can managed the sector sustainably it will yield great economic benefit to the country. Now, If you do not hail from a coastal Community you will never understand the frustrations of the people of Gunjur. I came from a coastal town of Brufut, and my mom and my elder sister were actively engaged in buying and selling fish to support the family. I used to go with them on weekends to help out at the beach when I was a small boy. They contributed alot to my educational expenses until I graduated from High School. Now knowing that there are families out there who depend on fisheries for livelihood, and seeing the manner at which Golden Lead is exploiting our resources broke my heart, because some day their operation will denied a family food on the table, which is totally unfair. I might be wrong on this but in my view based on the overwhelming evidences gathered so far on the operation of Golden Lead, including the environmental violations, I recommend to close the company down. It's unsustainable to allow such operation, and more over we are the loosers in this business. Comparing the value of fish oil and fish meal at International level to the revenue Golden Lead is bringing in to our national coffers is far too less. In economics term.. "the opportunity cost of our loss is far greater than the benefit of the company to the nation". It's becoming worrisome to see some politicians covering up the Illegal activities of the company for their business. This is no politics, we are concerned about our country and our resources God bless us with! Finally it's about time to review the licenses of all foreign fishing vessels operating in our waters and determine which ones are genuine or not. And certainly increase the fees of the license, because our fees are the cheapest in the whole Subregion.