Fishers on Gunjur seaside in The Gambia wade by mounds of seaweed as they transport their catch to the shore (Picture: Mustapha Manneh / China Dialogue Ocean)

Fishers on Gunjur seaside in The Gambia wade by mounds of seaweed as they transport their catch to the shore (Picture: Mustapha Manneh / China Dialogue Ocean)

Revealed
Jul 5, 2022 9:47 PM by

China Dialogue Ocean

[By Mustapha Manneh]

On and off for nearly 4 years now, huge portions of lifeless seaweed have been washing up alongside seashores in The Gambia.

The “Smiling Coast” of West Africa, because the nation is affectionately identified, has lengthy been in style with vacationers who take pleasure in its white sandy seashores and the lodges which can be nestled amongst clumps of coconut palm. However close to three fishmeal factories positioned within the fishing villages of Gunjur, Sanyang and Kartong, decomposing seaweed has turn out to be a menace.

The stench of the brown algae could be insufferable for close by companies and residents. Tourism has suffered, with swimmers unable to get into the water, and guests avoiding the seashores.

Small portions of seaweed are widespread in a marine ecosystem, particularly after storms. However because the arrival of the fishmeal services, an infinite quantity has been washing ashore, together with lifeless fish. The foreign-owned factories grind down small, open-ocean fish equivalent to bonga and sardinella into powders and oils for aquaculture and livestock industries abroad. On the similar time, they pump into the ocean untreated wastewater, stuffed with phosphates that promote the expansion of the algae that suffocates marine life.

In addition to campaigning, activists in Gunjur have collected samples of wastewater from the close by Golden Lead fishmeal manufacturing facility, and despatched it to an organization referred to as Reef Analytics in Germany to be examined.

In response to Ahmed Manjang, a number one activist and microbiologist in Gunjur, the wastewater contained “excessive portions of natural matter that brought on eutrophication”. That is the time period for extreme richness of vitamins within the water, which in flip results in extreme progress of vegetation that then decompose, depriving marine animals of oxygen.

The Gambia’s first fishmeal plant started working in 2015. It brought on smells that irritated vacationers and, for a lot of, signalled an financial and environmental catastrophe for the nation. Regardless of this, the variety of services nationally has since elevated to 3.

Gambian coastal waters are identified for his or her plentiful fish. However the fishmeal factories have posed a menace to meals safety, each by eutrophication and overfishing to produce the fishmeal factories with uncooked materials. The factories’ failure to function in an environmentally pleasant method has provoked protest from some locals, together with younger folks, lots of whom had been promised jobs and felt betrayed by the homeowners.

Breaching the principles

The Gambia’s 1994 Nationwide Environmental Administration Act specifies that “no individual shall discharge harmful materials, or substance into any water or any phase of the surroundings besides per the regulation prescribed by the council.”

However a senior member of the Nationwide Surroundings Company, the federal government entity overseeing environmental administration, who most well-liked to stay nameless, stated: “There isn’t any political will from the highest authorities officers to handle this fishmeal challenge. Whereas doing our work as mandated by legislation, a command will come from the highest authorities workplace to jeopardise the continuing.”

There’s at the moment no particular wonderful for illegally discharging waste into the ocean. Activists say this has created room for corruption and compromise. “As a result of there is no such thing as a particular wonderful for such act, the federal government officers concerned in coping with unlawful waste dumping are compromised” environmentalist Omar Saho stated.

In 2017, the Golden Lead manufacturing facility paid an out-of-court settlement to the federal government of $25,000 after discharging wastewater with out approval from the authorities. They have been additionally requested to pay for the testing of the already contaminated water.

Wastewater from the Golden Lead fishmeal manufacturing facility in Gunjur has brought on seaweed blooms that affect marine life and native fishers (Picture: Mustapha Manneh / China Dialogue Ocean)

The fisheries ministry is but to conduct any scientific analysis on seaweed blooms, however its director, Anna Mbenga Cham, believes manufacturing facility wastewater is the seemingly trigger. “I doubt if the inland sewage causes the seaweed bloom. We’ll monitor the seaweed scenario with the fishers there,” she added.

The director additionally pointed to a scarcity of coordination amongst authorities ministries as making it extra sophisticated to handle the fishmeal downside. “This isn’t solely the Ministry of Fisheries’ duty,” she stated.

Impression on the ecology and tourism

Consultants warn that discharging untreated wastewater into the ocean can result in mass die-offs of fish, crabs and different marine species.

The largest menace comes from the deoxygenation of water as blooms of algae decompose. Maiyai Taal Hocheimy, director of the GREAT Institute, a Gambian marine and coastal analysis centre, particulars one other menace: “If there’s an excessive amount of seaweed, it would trigger hypoxia. There are vegetation within the water that want daylight to develop, and if there’s an excessive amount of seaweed, they received’t develop.”

The seaweed, a species of sargassum, is inflicting fishers huge issues. “It damages our fishing nets and… impacts our catches,” says Abdou Jeng, a fisher from Gunjur. “Our enterprise is affected; I’ve by no means seen this quantity of seaweed so continuously ashore.”

“The ocean serves as the primary protein provider for the Gambians whereas serving as a job alternative for a lot of,” says Muhammed Hydara, of the NGO Gambia Environmental Alliance. “We’re involved about fishmeal wastewater discharged within the sea and demand correct administration of fishmeal vegetation.”

In 2019, tourism contributed 20.8 % to The Gambia’s GDP. The nation has been a well-liked vacation spot for guests, and its sandy seashores have attracted 1000’s of vacationers yearly. However the sector has suffered from the joint shocks of the seaweed and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Strolling on seaweed is essentially the most uncomfortable factor company can do. It’s not secure barefoot as a result of you will get lower… The seaweed combined with lifeless fish provides an disagreeable scent,” stated Lamin Jawla, proprietor of the Rainbow Resort beachfront lodge and restaurant in Sanyang.

“Swimming was my passion however now, I can’t swim within the ocean anymore,” stated Karamo Touray, a resident of Gunjur.

Clear-up operations

Within the absence of any official response, younger folks have taken on the duty of usually clearing the seaweed from the seashores alongside The Gambia’s total shoreline. “Yearly, the variety of volunteers will increase. In our latest clean-ups, round 200 volunteers joined,” says Muhammed Nyass, the coordinator of Gambia Ocean Heroes, a studying mission beneath the GREAT Institute that goals to scale back coastal air pollution.

Ocean air pollution from agricultural run-off, plastics or extractive industries is a big and world downside. In The Gambia, the latest rise in ocean air pollution seems to be linked to at least one specific trigger – fishmeal wastewater discharge – one which could possibly be tackled, with the best steps.

Mustapha Manneh is West Africa Regional editor at China Dialogue, based mostly in The Gambia. He’s a researcher specializing in China-Africa relations and fishmeal funding. Beforehand, he labored as an area producer for a fishmeal documentary referred to as Stolen Fish, and has served as a guide for environmental NGOs.

This text seems courtesy of China Dialogue Ocean and could also be present in its unique type right here.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer’s and never essentially these of The Maritime Government.

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