Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 June 2021:
Sierra Leone’s oceans and marine ecosystems have recently become a focus of intense media attention, following widespread national and international reports of a $55 million secret deal between the governments of Sierra Leone and China, involving an alleged sale of hundreds of acres of coastal lands by the Bio-led government to a Chinese company, for the construction of a fish meal factory which environmentalists say could seriously damage the country’s ecosystem and local economy.
The government of Sierra Leone has denied the allegation but failed to publish documents regarding the deal, despite freedom of information requests and protests by the media and rights groups.
Yesterday, United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone – David Reimer, speaking in a video celebrating June 8, World Ocean Day, called for the protection of Sierra Leone’s marine natural resources, after touring ecologically sensitive coastal areas around the Banana Islands with local environmental advocate Joseph Rahall, director of Green Scenery.
“A healthy, productive and resilient ocean which provides sustainable marine resources is important for economic growth and prosperity, food security, health and well-being,” stated Ambassador Reimer in the video, released by the U.S. Embassy.
“The United States works with partners around the globe to protect the ocean and combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. These incredibly rich marine ecosystems must be preserved not only to protect today’s lives and livelihoods, but for future generations of Sierra Leoneans,” Reimer said.
The coastal marine ecosystems provide numerous benefits to Sierra Leone. The nation’s waters are home to large fishing grounds for shrimp, tuna, snapper, mackerel, lobster, and crab.
Numerous Sierra Leoneans rely on these fish stocks for their livelihoods, and to feed their families. Fish supplies nearly 80% of the animal protein in the diets of Sierra Leoneans, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. (Photo: Ambassador Reimer).
“In the case of illegal fishing, trawlers will come very close, inside the EEZ Zone, the prohibited zone, and they can fish – especially where countries do not have the capacity to monitor like ours,” noted Mr. Rahall.
“And these trawlers will come very close and enter and compete with artisanal fishermen…. Often, because the catches are taken by the trawlers very close, the fishermen have to risk again their own lives to go further into the sea to make a living,” Rahall said.
The natural beauty of Sierra Leone’s beaches, and the diverse wildlife observed in coastal environments, are also critical to the developing tourism industry.
The estuaries and mangroves are home to unique birds and aquatic mammals including the endangered African manatee. Coral reefs provide habitat for a diversity of wildlife popular with divers.
Several species of whales pass through Sierra Leone’s waters during their annual migration. These natural treasures have potential to attract millions of dollars of tourism to the country.
“The U.S. Embassy in Freetown provides essential training to Maritime Wing personnel as they protect Sierra Leone’s oceans and territorial fishing grounds,” noted Ambassador Reimer.
“Through USAID, we have supported climate adaptation and mangrove restoration in coastal communities. We are proud to stand with Sierra Leone to preserve these critical natural resources,” Reimer said.
The World Ocean Day video can be viewed on the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sierraleone.usembassy/.
Many thanks to the American Ambassador for lending his support to the preservation of our marine eco-system. His voice and stance surely carry huge weight for obvious reasons. Most of us could do all the shouting without Bio as much as bat an eyelid, especially considering the fact that the Chinese are dangling $55 million in front of him, Together with the other millions, which he has amassed through dubious and devious means Bio is looking forward to a comfortable retirement anywhere in the world. But the people have woken up and Ambassador Reimer has helped to shake them out of bed,
It is quite possible that old age is setting in on Bio faster, causing his memory to become foggy, otherwise he should recall the mudslide disaster which shook the country in 2017,August 14th. It is believed that the real count of those who were buried alive will never be known . A true, patriotic leader, should be haunted by that national disaster and design strict punitive measures/policies to safeguard his nation from future natural disaster because of environmental degradation, wherever that may be. The President is either insane or in a constant drunken stupor to allow the Chinese to even propose their fish plant.
This is the best opportunity Bio has to hold and keep American attention and explore possible areas of mutual interest – a way to mitigate the wave of Chinese economic entrapment. The rivalry between the United States and China is real. Some dexterous foreign policy moves on Bio’s part should trigger a power play between the two most powerful economic players in the world in little Sierra Leone. The potential benefits could be quite remarkable. Why doesn’t Bio start by asking Ambassador Reimer if it is possible for the American government to sell one of their ships with a couple of years service left in their navy to Sierra Leone, to boost sea patrols aimed at catching illegal fishing trawlers? We know that quite a number of the illegal trawlers are Chinese .