By MUHAMMED SAILU BAH
They are complaining about the low catch caused by the scarcity of fish within the Gambian territorial waters, high cost of fuel, feeding of fishermen at sea, ice blocks as well as the new high taxes and which, according to them, have contributed in making the business less lucrative nowadays.
Omar Bah, a boat owner who has been operating in the fish trade business for a number of years now, explained how it has become increasingly expensive to go out on a fishing expedition.
“Sometimes you spend nothing less than D20,000 on fuel, food for the fishermen while they are out at sea and ice blocks to preserve the catch,” he revealed.
He said sometimes after having spent such huge sums to go out on a fishing expedition, they only come back with a very low catch and which, if sold, cannot cover the operational expenses.
“This is why we experience frequent hikes in the price of fish which is caused by scarcity,” said Bah.
He further highlighted the difficulties they are facing in the new tax system which GRA wants to introduce for boat owners.
He also noted the difficulties they face in the payment of taxes to GRA since they are not making any profits in their business.
He revealed that sometime in the month of Ramadan, some men came to meet them claiming to be GRA staff and told them that now each and every boat will pay Tax to the GRA depending on its size.
“During the month of the last Ramadan some men, who said they were from GRA, came and asked us to pay annual tax for our fishing boats. They told us that a boat that is of 13 metres of length downwards is supposed to pay D20, 000, while from 13 meters and above is D40,000,” he said.
Bah further explained how difficult it is for them to raise and pay this amount at once, adding that the business is no longer lucrative to enable them earn income to sustain their operations.
He, however, appealed to the authorities to engage them to discuss how best they can work out this tax payments to enable them continue with their operations.
Speaking to Mattar Njie, a fisherman, he explained that there is scarcity of fish in summer which often leads them to go as far as neighbouring Senegal and Guinea to fish in their waters. He said long distance fishing affects their work.
Njie said another factor that also negatively impacts on the availability of fish is the scarcity of shrimps which they use as bait to catch fish.
The scarcity of fish in the market in this summer is caused by the lack of shrimps.
“We cannot make sufficient catch without having shrimps as baits in the fishing nets and as at now, shrimps are hardly available in the river. We don’t go out on a fishing expedition if there are no shrimps to use as bait,” disclosed Njie.
He also cited the scarcity of ice blocks which they use to preserve their catch at sea. He said ice block is so expensive now that they have to spend a lot on it, otherwise the catch will easily get spoilt as they have to stay out long while at sea.
Isatou Sarr, a woman fish vendor, reiterated some of the challenges highlighted by the previous speakers, adding that catfish and shrimps are in short supply and thus the present scarcity in the market causes the price of fish to go up.
She also appealed for support from the authorities to enable them to continue with their trade as fish vendors in order to earn income and support their families.