Four Trawlers Swept Up in Gambian Early Morning Raids
Monday, 16 Nov, 2020
On the 4th of November 2020, Gambian law enforcement agents with the Department of Fisheries and The Gambia Navy working on board the Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon, raided three trawlers caught fishing inside protected waters reserved for local artisanal fishermen.
The fishing trawlers Gorde 105, Gorde 106 and Gorde 107 were boarded, arrested and escorted to the Gambian port of Banjul.
Two of the trawlers, Gorde 105 and Gorde 107, were also double-bagging their net—the act of fishing with one net inside of another one–so as to circumvent mesh size requirements, another offense under the Gambian fisheries regulations.
Three days later, the fishing vessel Xing Xi Wang 1 was arrested for fishing with the wrong mesh size.
“The Gambia implements mesh size requirements to ensure that undersized and juvenile fish can escape, thereby conserving fish populations to mitigate overfishing. But at-sea patrols are needed to ensure compliance as well as deterring industrial trawlers from entering protected areas."Mar Casariego, captain of the Sam Simon
The waters of The Gambia are particularly rich in biodiversity as the country is positioned where the nutrient-rich Gambia River meets the Canary Current. The livelihoods of over 200,000 Gambians are directly or indirectly dependent on local fisheries while the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) believes that more than 46% of the assessed fish populations in the Eastern Central Atlantic are experiencing overfishing.
Sardinella and other small pelagic species are of critical importance to Gambians which is why the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources (MFWR) instituted a nine-nautical mile Special Management Area to conserve waters frequented by artisanal fishermen. However, industrial trawlers routinely come close to the shoreline with artisanal fishermen making regular complaints to the MFWR asking for compensation for nets lost to industrial trawlers running them over. Populations of sardinella are also rapidly declining due to these daily incursions.
The arrest of the four trawlers marks the continuation of Operation Gambian Coastal Defense, a partnership between Sea Shepherd and the government of The Gambia, led by the Honorable James Furmos Peter Gomez, Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources. Twenty vessels have been arrested on Operation Gambian Coastal Defense since the start of the collaboration in 2019.
Since 2016, Sea Shepherd has been working in partnership with the governments of Gabon, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tanzania, Benin, Namibia and The Gambia to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by providing the use of civilian offshore patrol vessels to African coastal and island States so that authorities can enforce fisheries regulations and conservation laws in their sovereign waters. To date, the unique partnerships have resulted in the arrest of 58 vessels for illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes.