Greenpeace helping Sierra Leone tackle illegal fishing as the government fails to curb corruption

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 April 2017

A nation that cannot manage its resources effectively is doomed to poverty and under-development.  Sierra Leone is abundantly rich in natural resources, yet classed as one of the poorest nations in the world. Successive governments of Sierra Leone have failed to fulfill their contract with the people of the country, to manage and develop its resources for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans, and the ruling APC party has not done any better.

Since coming to power in 2007, an estimated $1 Billion is lost every year by the government through mismanagement and corruption. The country’s fishing sector has the potential to generate over £200 million in revenue to the government, but realises less than 10% of this annually, despite cooking the books.

The ministry responsible for managing and monitoring the country’s seacoast with the help of the police is neck deep in corruption. Funds meant for the development of the fishing sector are being squandered; dodgy fishing contracts are signed with foreign companies that are over-fishing the seas, yet paying little or no taxes.

Sierra Leone receives about $400 million in foreign aid to pay for vital public services such as health, education, electricity and water supply. The country cannot feed itself, but those in power are some of the richest in Africa.

The youths of Sierra Leone are desperately impoverished and are crying out for help. Listen to this song released this month by a young Sierra Leonean:

This is Greenpeace report published two days ago, on how it has recently helped the people of Sierra Leone to stop illegal fishing:

“Four illegal fishing cases found in Sierra Leone in four days”

Four illegal fishing cases have been found during a joint surveillance mission conducted by Greenpeace and Sierra Leone fishery authorities.

High sea control by fishery inspector on the EIGHTEEN PA 1345 ITA 25454, Spanish trawler fishing boat. Checking the net mesh size

Two Chinese vessels and one Korean vessel have been arrested for infringements of Sierra Leone fishing legislation, including possessing or using illegal fishing nets on board, no visible marking and a lack of required paperwork, including log books and authorisation for unloading catch.

Fishing authorities ordered the vessels to return to Freetown port for further investigation. A fourth vessel, owned by an Italian company, was found with four kilograms of shark fins on board. Though not illegal under Sierra Leonean laws, this is a clear violation of European Union (EU) fishing rules. This boat’s case will be taken further with relevant EU authorities.

In addition, more than 70 bags of shark carcasses were found on one of the Chinese vessels.

Greenpeace and Sierra Leonean authorities inspected and boarded seven vessels during a four day joint surveillance of Sierra Leonean seas. These included three Chinese vessels, two EU vessels, one Korean vessel, and one Senegalese vessel with Korean investment. More than half of the inspected vessels are suspected of illegal fishing activity.

Ahmed Diame, Greenpeace Africa Oceans campaigner, said:

Korean fishing boat CONA placed under ARREST after a high sea control by Sierra Leone fishery inspectors. Illegal fishing gear found on board
Local crew sitting by the door of the shelder built on top of boat for sleeping accomodation. Crew listening to radio, net, clothes hanging outside, no personal cupboards available for the crew

“The findings from just four days of surveillance in Sierra Leone are further evidence that West Africa needs to strengthen its fisheries management.

“The region’s marine resources are being depleted at alarming rates, mainly due to too many boats competing for too few fish, and high rates of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

“This ongoing plunder is a threat to millions of people in the region who depend on the oceans for their food.”

Currently 140 vessels are licenced to operate in Sierra Leonean waters, including tuna purse seiners, demersal and shrimp trawlers and shrimps and mid-water trawlers targeting pelagic fish like sardinella and mackerel. Nearly half of all vessels in the country’s waters are owned by Chinese companies, and 40% by European Union companies.

Pan Wenjing, Greenpeace East Asia oceans campaigner, said:

“From talking to Chinese captains during the inspections, it is evident that they have a very limited understanding of local fisheries legislation. Given that almost half of the foreign fishing vessels in Sierra Leone are Chinese, this is a major concern. These vessels need much stricter supervision. In addition, Chinese fishing companies need to supply training on local legislation to all overseas staff.”

Nearly one million of Sierra Leone’s population of seven million depend on fish as a main part of their  income and diet . Overfishing and illegal fishing are a direct threat to their food security and livelihoods.

Control on board Spanish tuna senner fishing boat ZUBEROA / EGVV. Fishery inspectors on bridge with captain

Greenpeace is demanding a stronger fisheries management to help put an end to over-fishing and illegal fishing in West Africa. Governments of coastal states and fishing nations must take more responsibility and work together to manage both foreign and local fishing activities and ensure the environmentally sustainable and socially equitable distribution of these resources.

Details on the vessels engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities:

F/V Eighteen:

The Italian vessel was inspected on April 15th 2017, and shark fins with a total weight of four kilograms were found on board.

Unlike many other countries, such as neighbouring Guinea, shark finning is not yet listed as illegal under the current Sierra Leonean fishery legislation. A new legislation which prohibits finning has not yet come into force. However, according to European Council regulation (EC) No 1185/2003, it is illegal for an EU vessel to have shark fins on board, regardless of whether if it is fishing in EU or foreign waters.

F/V Eighteen is owned by the Italian company Asaro, which is based in Sicily. Sierra Leonean authorities have documented and sealed the bag of shark fins and required the captain to keep the sealed fins on board as evidence.

CONA:

The vessel was inspected on April 15th 2017, and attempted to escape as the Esperanza approached. The vessel was hiding its name and in possession of a fishing net with illegal mesh size on board, both of which are illegal under Sierra Leonean law.

According to Sierra Leonean fishery legislation, the mesh size for pelagic and demersal fishing should be 60 millimeters and above. The fishing net found on board CONA was 51-52 millimeters.

CONA is a Korean vessel. Sierra Leonean authorities confiscated the fishing license, captain’s passport, along with other navigation documents, and required the vessel to return Freetown port immediately for further investigation.

Fu Hai Yu 1111:

The vessel was inspected on April 17th 2017, and attempted escape as the Esperanza approached. Two hidden nets with illegal mesh size were found, one in the freezer and the other in a locked container. The captain tried to muddle the inspection with a brand new legal net.

More than 1400 boxes of catch were found in the freezer on board. The captain claimed all the catch had been unloaded in Liberia. However, the vessel didn’t have the required official authorization from the Minister of Fishery and Marine Resource of Sierra Leone for unloading its catch outside the country, which constitutes an infraction of local legislation. Further research is being done to ascertain whether this authorisation has been given to the company.

During the inspection, no log book was found on board, making it impossible to verify the catch.

70 bags of sharks were found in the boat’s freezer, which the captain claimed would be shipped back to Fujian, China. Current legislation does not penalise sharks being caught as a bycatch, although shark populations are severely impacted by fishing .

Sierra Leonean authorities confiscated the fishing license, crew’s passports, and other navigation documents, and required the vessel to return Freetown port immediately for further investigation.

Fu Hai Yu 2222:

The vessel was inspected on April 17th 2017. A piece of fishing net with illegal mesh size was found on board, which the captain claimed was not used for fishing. However, possessing fishing nets with smaller mesh size on board is considered illegal.

No logbook was found on board the Fu Hai Yu 2222. The captain could not provide a precise amount of catch, instead estimating 3500 boxes, which did not match with the estimation of the fisheries observer on board. The captain claimed that catch had been unloaded in Liberia. This, however, is illegal without the official authorization signed by the Minister of Fishery and Marine Resource of Sierra Leone.

Both Fu Hai Yu vessels are owned by the Fuhai Fishing Company.

About the Greenpeace Esperanza

The Esperanza, is on an expedition in West Africa to document the threat from over-fishing to the marine environment and food security for millions of Africans depending on fish. The crew on board with the support of fishing authorities from coastal countries in the West Africa aim to reduce the number of vessels fishing illegally or committing different offense. The Esperanza will continue to engage in joint surveillance with local authorities until the beginning of May.

2 Comments

  1. It is easy to point fingers at the government and accuse its officials of being corrupt, which, from a societal hierarchical standpoint is quite understandable – since the government is supposed to set the tone as to what a nation is supposed to look like, at least, in as much as the society they rule-over thinks.

    However, if we are to speak in all honesty, we are to admit that the situation is much more complicated than just the beastly culprits that attains government positions that we adamantly like to point fingers at. The problem is more cultural bound than just what we would like to think. What I mean by this is, the same officials that we like to point fingers at when things turn sour, these officials were at the other side of the fence before attaining their prestige positions.

    They were regular people just like us, a mere reflection of the people they’re in charge of, or the people that they’re supposed to be working for – which ever way that one wants to look at it. Trust, once the culture conform itself appropriately, all its subsidiary conformations will follow.

  2. Everything goes wrong in Sierra Leone – one of the few African countries still lacking development. There are no structures in place for so many things and the government gives contract to people on the side.

    The Chinese are using every opportunity to illegally use our resources – well illegally? The authorities know about it and NOTHING will come out of these findings.

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