When you think about the Gambia, you will probably think about the famous smiling coast with its beautiful tropical beaches. Well forget that, that was the old Gambia. A better name nowadays would be ‘The Smelling Coast’ since the construction of two Chinese fish processing plants in Gunjur and Kartong. A thirth one is to be expected in Abéné (Senegal).
Yep, it really happened they build a fish processing factory in an eco-village
Last year the Chinese built two fish processing plants in Gunjur and eco-village Kartong. The processing plant in Kartong is as large as a football field to give you any idea about the scale. The name is Golden Leaf Factory and is run by two Chinese guys Robin & Jojo. Could u ever imagine a huge factory like this being deployed in an offcial eco-village? Well, it really happened.
Wastewater in the ocean, dead fish washing up shore
Since the Chinese processing plants are built a new pipeline had been put into the ocean so the factory can get rid of their wastewater easily. Since this pipe has been build every day thousands of dead fish wash up the beaches of Kartong and Gunjur.
It is not surprising that thousands of people living in Kartong and Gunjur fear for their own health when you see the amounts of dead fish washing up shore. According to locals, “Bolongfehyoto wildlife reserve where the wastewater was initially pumped, was contaminated resulting in dying of fish and mangroves”. This gives an indication of the huge amount of toxic levels in the water. So how safe it to continue eating fish that is caught in these waters? It’s not.
Are the Chinese exploiting the Gambian resources?
So how does it work here? There are Chinese fishing vessels and Gambian local fishing boats who are providing the plant with fish. The processing plant is buying the fish from the Gambian fishermen to be processed. But is this fish also ending up on the Gambian market? According to someone who did research, this factory is producing fish meal and fish oil which will be exported to Asia. Overfishing in West-Africa is a huge problem. But now the Gambian and Chinese fisherman joined forces, this problem can only get worse.
China completely overfished their own waters. China’s annual catch is estimated at some 15 million tons, making it the world’s top fishing nation twice over. The result has also been colossal: a 50% reduction in its own domestic fish stocks, a 600% rise in per capita seafood demand, and a global fleet that is 2 to 3 times larger than what the entire global ocean is estimated to sustainability support. China’s need for fish is crazy and not sustainable.
The Gambia like any other developing country in Africa is an easy target for resource extraction by Chinese entrepreneurs. In trade for licenses to fish commercially (or to build processing plants), these companies support the government financially in a lot of cases. To be clear in this case, the deals with these Chinese fishing companies were made by the Jammeh government. The new Gambian government has the power to turn back this decision and shut down these processing plants. By doing this the government would show they really have the intention to make the Gambia a sustainable nation. Trump says ‘America first’.. in this case it is time to say ‘Gambia first’ and not China.
Sharks completely disappeared
Shark finning is a huge problem in the area of West-Africa (in particular in Kafountine). Almost all sharks have disappeared which have resulted in a serious sick and outbalanced ecosystem. They are caught away for the simple reason that Chinese people like sharkfin soup. Chinese people pay a lot of money for it. Only in the deep waters of the ocean are still some sharks left. People are trying to catch the last ones now. The only solution we have is to protect what is left and to make shark fishing highly illegal.
The end of eco-tourism in the Gambia
Not long ago these beaches were beautiful and so full of life, now it’s like a fish cemetery in some places. The smell is absolutely crazy and local people fear for their health. Everybody who reads this article can already see what the consequences will be. Local businesses could disappear and many people could lose their jobs because no tourist will be attracted to visit this area anymore. This could be the end of eco-village Kartong in terms of health and tourism.
It’s up to the Gambian government to change something here. Do they want to be the smiling coast of the Gambia or the smelling coast? The choice is up to them. There is no time to waste.