Old Jeshwang Fisherfolks Raise Concerns Fisheries Director Responds

By Amie Sanneh and Rohey Jadama

Fisherfolks at the Old Jeshwang fish landing site have have on Wednesday, July 23, 2014d raised concerns over the state of their working condition.

In an interview with the Foroyaa newspaper, the fishers decried the low catch they are experiencing nowadays.

According to them, they used to catch a lot of fish, but now they do not get much which is not good for their work. They attributed this problem to the high cost of petrol.

“We normally buy 80 liters of fuel which is costing D3, 800 to D4, 240. In a week we get fish once or twice. Sometimes you go and come back without any catch,” he remarked.

They further explained that when it rains, they don’t have access to vehicles due to the poor condition of the road and the fish mongers cannot carry the fish on their heads to the main road. This, according to them, makes them to incur more losses as they end up throwing away the rotten fish.

Further highlighting their constraints, they stressed the need for the availability of an ice plant which will help them to keep the remaining surplus of fish to prevent spoilage. They also noted that when there is low tide, they find it very difficult to paddle the canoes and by the time the boat reaches the shore in most instances the fish get spoiled.

“We want to have access to credit loans so as to help us buy some of the facilities we need such as nets and sustain our fishing,” said one of the fishermen.

On the type of fish they normally catch, he said they catch different types of fish but “Bonga” fish is the one they catch most.

They noted that most of the construction work done at the site is project based and they also said they need a store for the safe keeping of their machines, canoes and fuel which they said, they carry all the way to their homes which is very tedious. As for the fuel, they said it is not even safe for them to keep it in their homes.

The fisherfolks emphasized that they want all these concerns to be addressed so as to create a conducive environment for their work.

Responding to the concerns raised by the fisherfolks, Famara Darboe, the Director of Fisheries Department, said the Old Jeshwang Fish Landing site locally called “Ndangaan” or “Garassi Kobo” is part of their developmental plans.

He told Foroyaa in an interview at his office yesterday, Wednesday, 23 July 2014, that two months ago they opened a water and sanitation facility for them to improve their hygiene standards and not to discourage people from open defecation in that area.

The facility, continued Mr. Darboe, will enable them to wash themselves and appear good from sea and thus encourage hygienic standards in the fishing industry. Before the construction of the facility, he said, they conducted sanitation exercise in the area by testing the water to see how much contaminated it is and they end up discovering that the piggeries which are located there are the main source of contamination. He said they are now in the process of moving them away from there.

Commenting on the storage facility, he said, it is within their plans to provide cold storage to almost all the fish landing sites in the country but based on priorities. “Priorities are based on the volume of catches in a particular landing site. You know whatever development you do, you must prioritize,” he said.

Mr. Darboe explained that where there is more volume of catches, there will be more perishable fish (spoilt fish) than in the small landing sites and that is why they are prioritizing the landing sites. He said when they are done with their prioritization of the landing sites and Jeshwang improve on their catches, they will also benefit from a cold storage.

“In our priorities, cold storage is necessary only when you have extra fish that you cannot sell, that your people cannot consume them and then you have to store them in a cold storage,” he emphasized.

According to the Director of Fisheries, it is their priority to reduce what they call “post harvest loss” meaning catching fish only for it to get spoiled.

He denied the claim made by the fishermen that during the rainy season they sometimes throw away their catches due to lack of transportation facilities and poor road conditions for vehicles to go to the area. The Fisheries Director said fish in the country can only be thrown away if there are surplus and not due to accessibility. He said they are trying to avoid the loss of fish which is the reason why they have provided drying rag and smoke houses to fishers so that if people do not consume all the fresh fish, they can process the rest for a longer term. This, he said, is the reason why they are encouraging the fish traders and giving them loans. He added that they have also negotiated for a vehicle which is transporting fish to Basse.

On the complaints of the fisherfolks that they face difficulties in paddling the canoes to the shore when the sand comes out, Mr. Dampha explained that this is the result of low and high tides. He further said that when the sea is at low tide, the sand comes out and which, he added, is also good for oysters. “This high tide and low tide is good. Complete high tide is bad, complete low tide is bad,” he said.

Mr. Darboe said the fishermen who are coming from sea would know if they are going to meet high or low tide.

As for electrifying the area, the Fisheries Director said this is not within their purview.

On the loan aspect, Mr. Dampha said it is not the Fisheries Department that is giving out loans to individuals; but the Social Development Fund (SDF), pointing out that they offer the offer the facility to those that apply for it. He said they have sensitised fishermen countrywide about the existence of the SDF, stating that if the fishers want loans, they should visit the SDF.

Commenting on the old Denton Bridge which is partly collapsed, he said in the early days, the canoes that use to pass under were smaller ones but that now they are making bigger canoes that find it difficult to pass through the pillars.

He stressed that fishermen know where to fish and where not to.

On the reflectors at sea which according to the fishermen are not functioning thus giving them hard time at sea, Mr. Darboe said those lights are not meant for the canoes but for the ships.