Importance of pelagic fish

Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Pelagic fishing is done by large freezer-trawlers.

The target species in pelagic fishing are small pelagic fish that swim together in shoals close to the surface and often travel over long distances in the ocean. The shoals of pelagic fish are tracked by marine sonar equipment. From this echo, the depth and the size of the shoal can be determined. The net is towed behind the ship just below the water surface or further down, not reaching the seabed. The depth of the net is based on the location of the targeted shoal of pelagic fish.
Pelagic fishing equipment is constantly undergoing further improvements to ensure a more responsible and sustainable fishery. To illustrate, large mesh sizes in the front part of the net have being designed specifically to prevent the catch of non-desirable species and fish.

However, in The Gambia, the undetermined catch and killing of these productive juvenile has been a concern for the Department of State for Fisheries, Water Resources ad National Assembly Matters. It has even prompted them to send a warning against the killing of juvenile fish for they contribute meaningfully to the regeneration of the fishery sector. The pelagic fishing fleet is mostly made of large freezer-trawlers with lengths ranging from 70 to 140 meters.
How do we sustain our fishery sector when the young ones that are supposed to be spared to produce offspring are all killed or caught?  We must be conscious of the importance of the juvenile fish and the role they play in the sustainability of the sector. Virtually 45% of Gambian families either direct or indirectly derive their living from the fisheries sector. In fact it has become one of The Gambia’s most important single foreign exchange provider.

Today, most of the pelagic fleet have freezing equipment on board. Older vessels have been upgraded over the years with onboard freezing equipment and processing facilities, to get them to meet the newer standards. The catch capacity of a freezer trawler is in fact determined by its freezing capacity; the more capacity it has, the longer it can stay in the sea which means more catches, thus more profits.

More than 60% of a freezer-trawler onboard area is used for sorting, processing, freezing and storing the catch. From an economic point of view - as most pelagic species are of low value and transported over long distances - the efficient handling (freezing) of the product is of paramount importance but we must not base our fish catches on the pelagic ones.
Author: By Amadou Jallow