Integrated Coastal Area and Marine Biodiversity Management - Phase II

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Gambia


A 3-year Integrated Coastal Area and Marine Biodiversity Project in The Gambia ended in March 2008. That project resulted in the establishment of a community co-managed Marine Protected Area (MPA), a national marine biodiversity monitoring database, and initial inventories of marine turtles, marine mammals, and manatees.

This proposed 3.5 year project will consolidate those achievements, promote the standardization of key biodiversity monitoring protocols among the neighbouring countries, and encourage replication of the Gambian experience in other areas of The Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea Bissau.


The Gambia has an 80km long coastline and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extending 200 nautical miles from the low water mark. Fisheries resources are provided from 2 sources, the Gambia River, covering an area of 2,000km2 and the Atlantic Ocean covering the continental shelf to an area of 5,000km2. Both provide a vast potential for the development of the fisheries sub-sector. The Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) of Gambian waters has been estimated at about 80,000 tonnes for pelagic and demersal species, while the current exploitation rate is between 35,000 and 40,000 tonnes.

Fish is an important source of cheap protein to the population and is believed to have potential for greater contribution to addressing the country’s food security policy objective and the economy in general. Based on the current production levels there is considerable scope for exploiting the marine pelagic fisheries and aquaculture. In contrast, there is great need for tighter and more effective control of the threatened demersal resources.

Despite an overall degradation of the environment and the change of land use over the last 30 years, The Gambia is still relatively rich in biological diversity. At least 111 mammal species, 554 bird species from 75 families, 67 reptiles and 30 amphibian species exist in the country.

The parks and wildlife biodiversity and, marine and coastal biodiversity are mainly sheltered in protected areas and their associated marine and coastal niches.

The current protected area system established under the Biodiversity/Wildlife Conservation Act 2003 is comprised of 7 national parks and nature reserves under the mandate of the Department of Parks and wildlife Management (DPWM) covering a total land area of about 4.1% (about 438 sq km) of the country’s land area. These are Abuko Nature Reserve and Tanji Bird Reserve, Tanbi Wetland Complex in Western Region; River Gambia National Park in Central River Region; Nuimi National Park and Bao Bolon Wetland in North Bank Region; and, Kiang West National Park in Lower River Region. Bao Bolon Wetland Reserve, Nuimi National Park and Tanbi Wetland Complex are designated as Ramsar sites following the country ratification the Ramsar Convention in 1996.

The Abuko Nature Reserve holds a substantial population of Nile Crocodiles and attracts a wide variety of birds and mammals especially during the dry season. It has a total of 23 species of mammals, 37 reptiles and over 270 bird species. It also features an important Gallery Forest. Abuko Nature Reserve has one of the most representative samples of Guinea woodland which harbours a number of species of very local distribution within The Gambia, including the dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis), now presume locally extinction in Abuko, Ahanta Francolin (Francolinus ahantensis), white-spotted flufftail (Sarothrura Pulchra) and African Goshawk (Accipiter tachiro macrosceliders).

Tanji Coastal Park was established primarily for its ornithological importance and currently has 304 bird species from 61 families. The diversity of birds results from the range of habitat present (marine, estuary, fresh water swamp, coastal dune scrub and woodland). Dominant tree species include the ginger bread plum, (Parinari macrophylla), Rhun palm (Borassus aethiopum) and the Baobab (Adansonia digitata).

The River Gambia National Park was established as a last refuge for the very threatened hippopotamus (Hippotamus amphibius) in Gambia. Since 1979 a Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project (CRP) has been in operation on 3 of the major islands. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are extinct in much of their former range and endangered in the remaining countries they inhabit.

Nuimi National Park encompasses the island of Jinack and is contiguous with Senegal’s Delta du Saloum National Park and Biosphere reserve. The area supports a complex of fauna of great scientific interest and a bird ringing programme which has been operational in 1994 on Jinack Island. The 2 governments have recognized the combined potentials of the 2 protected areas as 1 ecological entity and initiated joint management efforts by signing a protocol of agreement in June 2001.

Bao Bolon Wetland Reserve consists of 6 major bolons (creeks) located between Salikene and Katchang. Together these bolons form a vast wetland complex of international importance. It has 3 distinct ecosystems – mangrove forest, salt marsh and savannah woodland. The reserve’s mangrove ecosystem provides an important fish breeding ground and its tributaries are an important source of fish.

Kiang West National Park has extensive stretches of mangrove creeks and tidal flats. The mangrove creeks habour animals such as the clawless otter (Aonyx capensis), marsh mongoose and sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei). It also has an impressive range of other fauna and avifauna (over 305 species) as well as a number of distinct biotopes. It is a home to the West African manatee (Trichecus senegalensis) and the Nile crocodile (Crocodilus niloticus).


1. Improved conservation and sustainable management of 4 globally significant species in coastal, marine and wetland ecosystems in The Gambia.
2. Expanded and effective community participation in conservation and sustainable management of globally significant biodiversity in coastal, marine and wetland ecosystems in 4 Protected Areas (PA), including 2 community fisheries PAs.
3. Two successful sustainable livelihood activities adopted by the communities and social infrastructure established and/or strengthened in 2 PAs.
4. Proposals to adapt the Gambian experience to Guinea Bissau and Senegal have been developed and submitted to PRCM (Programme Regional de Conservation Marine).


A previous project focused on protection of marine and coastal biodiversity and implementation of the Gambia National Biodiversity Strategy.

The establishment of a marine turtle and marine mammals monitoring system and overall biodiversity monitoring system has been the major result of this project. The current project proposal intends to expand these experiences to other areas of the Gambia and standardize the species monitoring system.

In addition to threatened species and habitats, the national parks systems of the 3 countries and local community based organizations will be the major beneficiaries.

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