The Department of Fisheries in partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently organised a three-day training workshop for oyster harvesters in The Gambia, which came to an end in Old Jeshwang at the weekend.
Speaking at the opening ceremony on behalf of the FAO Country Representative Perpetua Katepa Kalala, Sirre Njie-Sanyang said the Bivalve mollusks (e.g., clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops) form a significant part of the world’s fisheries production. She said FAO estimates that world oyster harvest in 2014 constituted 130,754 tonnes.
Madam Sanyang stressed that seafood constitutes an essential part of the diet of many people in the world and the need for increased production will persist as the human population expands. She added that oyster and cockle fisheries with appropriate harvesting techniques have the potential to increase women’s income and harvest yields, and reduce wild harvest pressures.
Therefore, she posited, training of oyster harvesters, processors and traders on improved handling, processing and preservation methods will strengthen their capacity to increase production and reduce post-harvest losses, produce high quality processed oysters/cockles, improve food security and increase income of women.
Madam Njie-Sanyang said the objective of the training is to develop the capacity of men and women fishers to make informed decisions on ecologically sound and environmentally friendly harvesting techniques and improve their knowledge of best practices relating to production, handling, processing, preservation, marketing and trade.
She said it is envisaged that capacities of the women fishers in the oyster and cockle fishery value chain development will be enhanced, such that fishers will become economically empowered to significantly contribute to the attainment of improved livelihoods in their communities by providing the additional income and food security.
Speaking on behalf of the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Fisheries, Mattar Bah said the training programme of oyster harvesters is funded by the FAO under its project for the development of the artisanal fisheries in The Gambia. He said the project has the objective to develop the artisanal fisheries sub-sector through capacity building of fisheries including oyster harvesters in improved fishing techniques, fish handling and processing skills, quality control and fish waste management and community based organisations to be more effective in terms of sustainable resource management.
Mr. Bah said the artisanal fisheries sectors including oyster harvesters have become a major priority area for development in the country. However, he pointed out, there had been grave concerns over the declining performance of this important sector in terms of its contribution to socio-economic development in generating revenue and foreign exchange earnings, contribution to food security and poverty alleviation and improvement of nutritional standards of the population.
He informed the gathering that the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources accordingly has undertaken reforms and initiatives including review and update of the Fisheries Act of 2007 and the Fisheries Regulations of 2008 to reflect current realities with strong focus on the sustainable use and management of marine resources.
by Fatoumatta K Saidykhan