Investment from China welcomed by The Gambia’s government is causing upset for a fishing community who say a Chinese-owned fishmeal factory is disrupting life on their shores.
“I have been working here for 32 years,” says Buba Cary, a fisherman from Gunjur speaking in Mandinka through a translator. “It only brings suffering for us,” he says, gesturing to the white building.
“Before the factory came here there was a lot of fish in the sea. If you want fish [now] you need to cross the border to Senegal or Guinea-Bissau.”
Kelepha Camara, who comes to this shore to buy fish and sell it up country, agrees, arguing that it has pushed up the cost of fish for locals: “This factory is not supporting us.”
These men are talking about a facility run by Golden Lead in the coastal village of Gunjur, which is around 45km (28 miles) south of the capital, Banjul.
In total The Gambia now has three of these factories – the other two, run by different firms, are about 10km north and south of Gunjur, where fish oil and fishmeal are produced and exported to China, Europe and beyond.
For many years the fishmeal industry has raised questions about sustainability. It uses vast quantities of fish, such as sardinella and bonga, which make up at least half of The Gambia’s total protein intake.
The Dutch non-governmental organisation Changing Markets Foundation found that the biggest of these fishmeal factories accounted for 40% of Gambia’s entire fish catch for a year.