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.