Activists have joined citizens in Gambia’s coastal community of Gunjur and Kartong to call on authorities in the West African nation to take immediate action against Chinese fishing companies polluting its beaches.
In Gunjur, dead fish, by-products of processed fish and unwanted parts are thrown back into the Atlantic ocean by the companies through and underground pipe that has been discovered by activists, angering locals.
The sea washes the fish waste back to the beach, polluting the environment and making it hard to breathe. A study by Pew Research Center found that protection of the environment has never been a particularly high priority for African governments, where Chinese firms have gone to exploit lapses in regulations and polluting the sea and air.
“The Gambia government should check their own policies and enforce regulations and make sure these companies don’t pollute the environment,” said environmental activist, Mustapha Manneh.
In Manneh’s own village, Kartong, a fishmeal factory is being built on a road to a lodge and a beach. Poor environmental conditions are alienating Kartong’s vision of being transformed into an ecotourist paradise and having a fishmeal factory that will pollute the sea and air will plunge its rising tourism business.
“The building is close to the beach, which is against their own policies. They should put strict policies that will govern waste management. The Chinese companies are trashing the waste in the sea,” says Manneh.
Fish has now covered a large part of Gunjur’s golden sand beaches. Pressure from activists forced the dubious fishing companies to load at least three trailers of waste fish to Kartong, where they dumped the trash on the side of a road. Police impounded two of the trailers before more waste could be deposited.
Citizens of Gambia’s neighbors, Senegal and Sierra Leone have complained that overfishing, poor fishing practices, and pollution by Chinese firms are depleting fish stocks in their seas.
At least 74 fishing vessels owned and operated by four Chinese companies have been exposed for fishing illegally in prohibited fishing grounds in West Africa and falsifying their gross tonnage, according to findings from a two-year investigation by Greenpeace East Asia and Greenpeace Africa.
China’s distant water fleet is now the largest in the world, with about 3,400 vessels fishing in the waters of nearly 100 countries. It is estimated that nearly 75% of all the fish it caught came from African waters with almost 3 metric tons from West Africa.