Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 November 2020:
Sierra Leone’s President Dr Julius Maada Bio has today unveiled plans to tackle illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the country which is costing the government an estimated $100 million a year in lost revenue.
The fishing sector currently contributes between 10-12 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but has massive potential to do more.
Addressing government regulators and private sector investors attending an event marking the distribution of fishing monitoring patrols and safety equipment in Murray Town, west of Freetown, the President said that his government inherited a fisheries and marine resources sector that is riddled with corruption and mismanagement.
“Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing was rife. Tax evasion, underreporting, overfishing by mainly illegal vessels within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was destroying the country’s fish stock, destroying the marine ecosystem, and depriving artisanal fishers and the entire artisanal fishing community chain of their livelihoods.
“We should recognise that IUU thrives where there are corrupt national regimes, poor national and international legal frameworks, ineffective or non-existent enforcement mechanisms, and more. As with corruption, IUU thrives when risks are low for operatives and their cohorts. Like corruption, we must make illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing risky and more expensive,” the president said.
President Bio also said that IUU crimes are a national security threat to lives and livelihoods because they directly impact on the local fishing industry that provides jobs for over 500,000 Sierra Leoneans.
He noted that the loss of livelihoods has exacerbated poverty in coastal communities, whose major source of income is fishing, adding that there are implications for the wider economy with a very small supply of fish in the local market selling at higher prices, and also dietary implications – with fish being a major source of protein.
The president spoke about his government’s New Direction manifesto promise, which, among other things, includes strategies to maintain sustainable and viable fisheries and marine resource ecosystem, good governance and a reduction in illegal fishing, adding that the focus of his government therefore, is to put in place a holistic, sustainable, and permanent solution to the problem.
“We argued in the New Direction manifesto that ‘stand-alone Government action has proven inadequate and ineffective to curb this menace’ of IUU. My Government believes that coordinated and timely action and enforcement mechanisms across the sub-region and within international organisations, in which Sierra Leone is a member, can help us wrest back full control of our fisheries and marine resources. I expect the Ministry to maintain an active presence in those international forums and to project our voices and concerns while actively seeking collaboration.
“My Government has also invested in hard assets to strengthen the monitoring, control, and surveillance of the fisheries sector. I am pleased to announce the following: Six Inshore Patrol boats for patrolling coastal inshore waters and for conducting community surveillance and extension services to coastal fishing communities; 23 VHF and UHF radio communication equipment for effective marine communication and daily update of field activities; 2,500 life jackets to be sold at a subsidised rate to fishing communities at various fisheries outstations to ensure safety of life at sea; Tablets and Android phones for data collection.
“We have made a lot of progress within two short years. I am pleased to inform you that with sound policies and practices, my administration increased revenue generation in the fishing industry to over 100.5 Billion Leones ($10.5 million) in 2019. Even with Covid-19, the sector has been able to generate close to Le 78bn from January – to date, 2020. This is just from tightening regulations and clamping down on corrupt practices,” the president concluded.
Illegal fishing in West Africa by foreign trawlers coming from Europe, Korea, Chinese fishermen, harms the livelihoods and food supplies of seven million people that live on the 5500km West African coastline. Sierra leone being one of the countries affected in the subregion, we will need a collaborative effort, like pooling resources together, and working with marine conservation organisations, before we can say comfortably that we are moving towards wrestling a situation, that completely appears to be out of control. The foreign trawlers boats are no match to our navy speed boats. They are bigger and faster.
To police our waters, governments in West Africa need to deploy larger ships to match the foreign trawlers, that know one country alone like Sierra leone, don’t have the means to patrol its coastline let alone police it on a 24hours cycle. Signing agreements with our West African partners and the European Union will help with the burden sharing. And until we start prosecuting those foreign nationals that are engaged in this day light robbery of our fish stock, confiscating their boats, and handing them long prison sentences, our efforts in fighting this menace will go in vain. You just need to persecute one or two foreign fishermen from Europe or Asia, that will Send a clear message to the rest of the crew.
Again, we hardly hear about small but important developments like this taking place in Sierra Leone. All we hear is APC and SLPP.
I have always maintained that our Marine resources if managed quite effectively will be enough to transform Sierra Leone into one of the most prosperous nations in the world. Lets remove our focus from Diamonds for a minute and let the boundless oceans reveal to us the priceless treasures that lie hidden within its unfathomable depths. Folks – our lives and the eternal oceans are identical in many ways, our stories are the same: both are full of ups and downs – the rising of the waves aptly resembles our moments of elation and their crashing wildly against the rocks symbolizes our anger and desperation against all forms of obstacles. Someone once said – nothing is more adorable and beautiful than the way the ocean stubbornly refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it is sent away. Maravillosa!
Sincerely, I only wish our people will begin to look at the majestic ocean with reverence and consider it as one of natures sacred gifts to mankind. First things first, our old soldier should do all he can to get an urgent bipartisan bill passed to protect our magnificent oceans from the indiscriminate dumping of toxic and human waste, garbage and plastics that take over a 1000 years to decompose. Our ocean is already being suffocated with filth and cannot yield her abundant increase and strength unless it is protected, sanitized and kept clean by human vigilance. Answer – why must we keep on fishing indiscriminately on an ocean contaminated with waterborne diseases that can be ingested from seafood that were caught in contaminated water?
Hey! If we are going to do things right lets go all the way – our strategies to safeguard our oceans from pirates and intruders must go hand in glove with stringent laws to protect our environment, and enhance our ecological well being. Enough said!
I like you guys. You made me feel happy reading good news like this.