The West African nation of the Gambia is negotiating with at least two companies to help the country take severe measures to restrict illegal fishing in its waters.
Illegal fishing in Gambian waters is costing the impoverished nation millions and cost the West African region no less than $2.3 billion a year.
The country is in talks with U.S., South African and Dutch companies to discourage undesirable fishing vessels, most them Chinese companies.
“The South African and Dutch companies will provide patrol boats while the American company is for aerial surveillance to complement the patrol boats,” said Fisheries and Water Resources Permanent Secretary, Bamba Banja.
“Fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing requires continuous monitoring and surveillance of our waters, and we don’t have the resources to do that.”
Green Peace says poor government coordination is hurting West Africa’s ability to combat illegal fishing, costing it billions of dollars each year in the process.
The problem has become so severe that it is threatening food security in the region and the Gambia is taking no chances.
Illegal trawlers in the region use a number of strategies to pillage marine beds without being caught.
Gambia’s neighbors detained seven Chinese ships for fishing illegally and the boats’ owners could be subject to millions of dollars in fines.
West Africa has some of the richest waters in the world, but stocks are being depleted as industrial trawlers, some operating illegally, comb the oceans from the seabed to the surface.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China consistently opposes all forms of illegal fishing and demands that firms operate legally and protect the maritime environment.
“China hopes that the relevant countries can enforce the law in a civilized manner, handle it in accordance with the law and protect the legal rights of the relevant Chinese companies and their employees,” Geng told Reuters.
Fishing has been long neglected by the Gambia’s former regime but new President Adama Barrow has made it a top new priority in his economic development plan.
The Barrow administration is already at odds with conservationists in a small fishing village in southwestern Gambia, where a Chinese fish meal company is accused of pollution.
Residents of Gunjur have sued the Golden Lead Factory demanding $300,000 (D15 million dalasis) in damages to the environment, a creek and the beach.
(Writing by Sam Phatey; Reporting by Lamin Jahateh; Additional Reporting from Quartz and Reuters)