As Banjul plays host to the 27th Extra-Ordinary Session of the Coordinating Committee of the Sub-regional Fisheries Commission, the importance of the fisheries sector to social and economic development will surely come under sharp focus in the course of the week-long conclave.
The timing of the event is apt as it seeks to review and validate the draft monitoring, control and surveillance convention and its additional protocol on the sub regional register of fishing vessels, including information exchange and sub-regional observer programme.
The fisheries sector, without a doubt, remains a crucial contributor to the economies of countries in the sub region as an essential primary source of food for millions and livelihood to thousands of people. Whilst its health benefits are equally important, fish and fish products constitute a pivotal export commodity for countries in the subregion. This makes the fisheries sector a significant foreign exchange earner for countries thereby propelling growth and helping to alleviate poverty.
In view of the role of the fisheries sector in development, the need for judicious and sustainable management of fisheries resources is of tremendous importance. The fisheries sector has long been dogged by myriad problems, notably over exploitation and illegal fishing activities leading to the scarcity of marine resources and more worryingly giving rise to food insecurity as well as economic losses for both fishermen, fish traders and countries by way of decline in fish exports.
Such worrisome scenarios call for closer collaboration between countries in the subregion in the areas of surveillance, information sharing, harmonization of respective national laws to combat unreported unregulated or illegal fishing activities often blamed on foreign trawlers/large vessels that only deprive the common fisher folk and national economies of significant amount of income and or foreign exchange. As members of the Sub-regional Fisheries Commission hold their deliberations here in Banjul, the hope is that their presentations will be translated into meaningful action for the good of the ordinary fisherman, artisanal fisheries groups, whilst reaping the rewards of industrial fishing.