The community of Kartong village in West Coast Region recently held a daylong meeting on proposing Kartong as a Community Marine Protected Area (CMPA) for the first time in The Gambia.
Speaking at the meeting, Kawsu Jammeh, PoWPA project manager, said the initiative is to maintain and conserve resources.
According to him, the area has a rich biodiversity in terms of fish, birds, mangrove ecosystem and the ocean front that has long been voluntarily protected by the local people.
The intention of the government is to facilitate the formal process of designating the area as a CMPA in accordance with the Biodiversity Wildlife Act 2002, he said, adding that countries need to enhance representativeness in protected areas and increase their coverage networks as a result which prompted the establishment of Kartong as CMPA.
He said some of the benefits include enhancing ecological and nature, protection of sea from eroding due to climate change, serve as a spawning area for fish, improve community livelihood and provide habitat for wildlife and feeding area for livestock among others.
If established, he added, this can be amalgamated with Abenne Marine Protected Area as a transboundary marine protected area, which could be very useful for both communities.
Mr Sana Jarjue, a fisherman, said many a time he has been confronted by the Abanne Park officials to desist from fishing in the park area.
He acknowledged that over-fishing and fishing in protected areas could cause the loss of fish species, adding that in Morocco there is a system in place that is of six months fishing period and six months closure of fishing. He said with this pattern the fish would have enough time to breed and mature and fit for consumption, and any one found violating this system will be killed.
The Gambia, he said, is blessed with such a natural resource, which can be effectively managed if designated as a protected area in ensuring the resources are always available for prosperity.
He said there are voluntary youth organizations operating in the area of environment and perhaps they need to strengthen their capacities to work amicably in the protection and conservation of the protected areas' resources.
Lamin Touray of Kartong Halein Environment and Cultural Organization (KHECO) said their organization is mandated to protect and conserve the environment and keep the it clean.
To him, for over three years KHECO, in collaboration with West Africa Bird Study Association (WABSA), has been embarking on mangrove regeneration year after year and more than 30,000 mangroves stump plants planted along the proposed park.
Touray did appeal to donors, NGOs, government and philanthropists to have an eco-tourism camp, which can also create job opportunities for Gambian youths.
Malle Jagana, the CBD project manager, on behalf of WWF, expressed appreciation on the level of commitment of the community of Kartong in having the area designated as a protected area.
One of the goals of the CBD is to increase protected area coverage to 10% and The Gambia is working towards reaching that percentage because this new proposed area would definitely increase the coverage percentage.
Mr Jagana assured them of WWF readiness to provide support to ensure the proposed area achieve its realities.