“We appeal to the president to address our plight” Says Gambian sailors

By Muhammed Sailu Bah
A group of five young men from the Association of Gambian SailorsFishing trawler docked at the wharf
(AGS) visited the Foroyaa office yesterday to appeal to the president
of the republic to help ameliorate their plight as they have been
without work for six months now due to the unavailability of licenced
fishing trawlers.According to the sailors, for the past six months, the fishing
trawlers that engage them as deck hands are not being registered to
fish in Gambian waters. They explained that during this period none of
the members of their association has been recruited to work in the
fishing trawlers that normally hire their services because the vessels
are not licenced.
“Whenever we enquire from the members of our executive, who facilitate
the signing of our contracts to work on the trawlers, they would tell
us that nothing can be done at their level and it is only government
that can do something about it,” said one of the sailors.
They said their association has nearly 3000 registered members who all
depend on these periodic contracts they have with the fishing trawlers
to work as deck hands for periods ranging from three to six months or
even more.
“Most of us here are family heads and the pay we receive from the few
months we are out at sea is what we rely on to sustain our families
when we are out of work. This type of engagement is really better than
sitting down without any work,” revealed one of them.
The sailors explained that they are in dire financial straits and
would want the president to know their plight and to help in resolving
the problem which, they said, is to facilitate the registration of the
trawlers to be able to fish in Gambian waters.
They said these past six months have been a very difficult period as
some of them who are fathers were unable to settle the education bills
of their children as school has re-opened or to attend to other
pressing needs such as rent, feeding of the family, fares to be coming
and going to their office every working day, etc.
They revealed that some of their members had even
resorted to the life risking “backway” journey to Europe in search of
greener pastures.
According to them, the arrangement for these fishing vessels is that
they are issued with annual licences to fish in the territorial waters
and requires them to employ some Gambians to serve as deck hands and
an inspector from the Fisheries Department. “The vessels normally
engage between three and five members of the association and the
inspector for three or six months,” added one of them.
They explained that their job on the vessel is to cast nets, sort out
the fish after the catch and store them in the cold room. “We stay in
the sea for few weeks or months before discharging our catch in the
port of Dakar where most of the vessels are registered,” explained
The AGS members concluded that they want support to be able to engage
in legitimate pursuits that can earn income to support themselves and
their families.