|FISHING FOR WEALTH|
The result of a survey conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the Norwegian government has placed The Gambia in the list of the richest fishing zones in the world. The report revealed that Gambian waters are capable of providing huge quantities of exportable catch on a sustainable basis and further intimated that the present annual harvest of 30,000 tones could considerably increase to 200,000 tones of pelagic (surface) and demorsal (deep-sea) fish. The study, through its findings, raised the curtains off a huge industry waiting to be exploited.
Opening up the opportunities in The Gambia fishing sector require investors with the technical know-how, expertise and sufficient capital outlay to set-up processing plants in the country, thus enabling it to achieve the desired higher margins on value-added fish exports.
The fisheries industry, predominantly artisanal, has an established market in European and in sub-regional countries, ensuring that investors have a ready-made target. Added to the existing markets are the Middle East and South-East Asian markets, which are developing a taste for African fish imports. In order to encourage investors, the fishing industry, in spite of its obvious potential for profitability, is further listed among the priority sectors qualifying for special incentives.
Ousman Drammeh, Director of the Fisheries Department, revealed, "we need investors and private sector partners for vacuum-packed fish". A test company had earlier conducted feasibility studies on the project and proved it "commercially viable". The government's plan to develop the sector is underscored by its commitment to establish a $12 million commercial fishing port in Banjul in conjunction with international fleets. Another $4.5 million fish processing plant funded by the Japanese government is fully operational in Tanji, one of the major fishing areas. The Denton Bridge Shrimps Projects is nearing the implementation stage. Sited in an area rich in plankton, the project will breed shrimps, prawns and lobsters for export.
A number of investors are already benefiting from the lucrative industry; Kendaka Fishing, a partnership between a British and his Gambian partner secured a free 99-year land lease and processes sizable tonnes of fish for export into Europe.