Now Imported Tilapia (Furro/ Wass” in our Dinner Tables and Restaurants. As “Chalo or Kobo” — the traditional Gambian delicacy — are now threatened with extinction

Mamos Media

Alagi Yorro Jallow

Mamudu: I am perplexed and still amazed how farm-raised tilapia (‘furro or wass’) from China manages to pass through customs and phytosanitary controls at our ports. It is just recently that the USA banned farm-raised fish and shrimp imports from China due to drug residues and poor aquaculture practices like feeding salmonella-laden pig and geese manure to fish.
Mamudu: How Chinese fish got past veterinary control services at the port of entry in the Gambia, then found its way into dinner tables in Bakau, Banjul, Brusubi, Pipeline, and rural areas the Gambia is puzzling. The country’s border control officials are corrupt beyond repair. They can pass snake venom as human food if you can part with the right amount of money. Despite the ongoing health concerns, Gambia’s phytosanitary standards must be a concern for the health department to eat farm-raised tilapia from China.
Mamudu: The Gambia imports frozen tilapia, frozen mackerels, sardines, prawns, and salmons, among others imports frozen tuna, octopus, frozen whole tilapia fillets from China, and lobsters caught in the lakes and the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. The country has a sizeable exclusive fishing zone with the potential to produce tons of fish annually, estimated at billions of Dalasis. However, it is yet to utilize the opportunity optimally.

Mamudu: Fishing is the mainstay of river-side communities in Badibou, Niumi, Kiang, and Jarra. It has fueled the economy and employed for decades. However, overfishing, a lack of infrastructure, and cheap Chinese imports have hit the industry hard. As a result, the Gambia’s fish stocks have been ailing. Its main competitor is the European Union and China, one of its largest economies and leading fish producers. The increased demand from Gambia’s fish-hungry population means the country is relying on frozen farmed imports. The traditional tilapia delicacy leads to the decline in the Gambia fish population while the government gives fisheries no respite.
The Gambia’s Fisheries ministry has failed to save its country’s diminishing fish stocks. The majority of Gambians depend on the fish caught offshore for their basic protein needs. However, the river waters are becoming increasingly overfished by European trawlers. As a result, many species, including “Chalo or Kobo” — the traditional Gambian delicacy — are now threatened with extinction.

Mamudu: I was livid when I discovered from a restaurateur who confirmed that they were purchasing their tilapia fillets from suppliers, sourcing their tilapia from global markets, including China. The Gambian in me could not accept this scenario. This restaurateur (name withheld) revealed that they serve approximately 5000 meals per day, fish fillets in various forms (grilled, battered and fried, curried, etc.) were popular options and accounted for about 10% of sales, about 1200 fish meals a day. He added that “the tilapia fillets were of a specific size (approx. 225-250gms per fillet) and the customers had come to expect that size as a brand standard, deviations from the size met with disappointment and/or anger from customers”. Digging into the numbers, according to the restaurateur, one fish gives you two fillets. The restaurant consumed about 1200 fillets per day, translating to nearly 600 tilapia fish served daily.

Mamudu: Armed with the numbers. Is it possible to get suppliers to supply the restaurant and other eateries with local tilapia fillets 1200 per day or more,365 days a year? Now the reality hit why they could not find a single local fish processor/supplier who could consistently fill this tilapia order instead of China.
Mamudu: How can the Honorable Fisheries minister delve into the debate of local vs. import fish tilapia, logistics, infrastructure (refrigeration, roads, etc.)

  1. The local vs. imports debate independently of building local supply chain capacity.
  2. Passionate about building local capacity that reacts to the demands of the market.
  3. Create avenues to fund local scalable fish farmers/processors, then revisit the debate.
    Mamudu: The Gambia government needs to enable sustainable incomes and livelihoods for its citizens. The governments also need to tackle overcapacity, the destruction of fisheries, ecosystem preservation, and control and surveillance. Reducing the fishing activity for some years would help restore stocks to a level enabling anglers to catch and earn more income than they currently do without depleting the resource in the long term.

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