Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 May 2019:
It is Ramadan, and millions of Muslims across Sierra Leone are fasting amid increasing scarcity of fish – the main source of protein for most people in the country.
President Bio has appointed a new minister of trade and industry to help tackle the country’s worsening economic crisis and the growing disquiet among the population. Will this make a difference?
The government is being accused of failing to stem the rising costs of living in the country, especially basic food items such as fish, as Emmanuel Okyne reports for Premier News:
The prices of fish in the market are increasing by the day. This is making it difficult for ordinary Sierra Leoneans to purchase fish as part of their daily diet.
Fish provides 70 percent of the nation’s protein. About 50 percent of Sierra Leoneans who live below the poverty line rely on fish for their protein.
Mariatu Kamara, a housewife, told Premier News that the cost of dry fish and raw fish have increased by almost 100 percent in the past five weeks. She said that a portion of fish that used to cost Le10,000 is now sold at Le20,000. She attributed the high cost to the short supply of fish in the market.
The shortage came after the end of government’s one-month ban on industrial fishing, which local fishermen hoped would replenish stocks but whose impact has been limited by its short span.
The government imposed the moratorium at the start of April on industrial boats, most of which are owned by Chinese and South Koreans.
Local fishermen complained these trawlers damage their nets and disrupt schools of fish in shallow waters. “Unfortunately, this SLPP government is doing nothing tangible to address this menace,” Kamara said.
She noted that the situation was becoming dire with each passing day. She said that fish is now very scarce and food prices are affecting household savings.
Margaret Murray, a fishmonger, said that they price their fish based on carton price.
She said that the price of a carton of fish has increased by 60 percent. “We don’t do business to loss. We sell based on the market price,” she said.
Murray said that the ban on industrial fishing greatly affects the supply of fish in the market.
In Sierra Leone, nearly half the population does not have enough to eat, especially since the SLPP came to power, and fish make up most of what little protein people get.
But the country’s once-plentiful shoals, combined with weak government regulation, have lured a flotilla of unscrupulous foreign trawlers to its waters.
Most of the trawlers fly Chinese flags, though dozens also sail from South Korea, Italy, Guinea and Russia.
Their combined catch is pushing Sierra Leone’s fisheries to the brink of collapse.
Sierra Leone is not alone in facing this crisis, although things have worsened since the SLPP arrived on the scene.
According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, 90 percent of the World’s fisheries are dangerously over exploited.
The Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, a think-tank funded by America’s defence department, reckons that about a quarter of fish caught off Africa’s shores are taken illegally.
Emmanuel Okyne reports for Premier News