The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Dr. Soccoh Kabia has described illegal fishing as one of the main challenges facing the fisheries sector in Sierra Leone.
Addressing fisher folks at Sulima in the Sorogbema Chiefdom, Pujehun District and Bonthe Town at the end of his visit to outstations and fishing communities under his purview, Dr. Kabia said due to rampant illegal fishing practices, coupled with other challenges such as weak Surveillance Monitoring and Control system, the sector has not been able to realise its full potential. Dr. Kabia urged the fishers to renounce bad fishing methods, help in conserving their natural resources and identify defaulters.
Responding to concerns raised by the communities, the Fisheries minister assured them that his ministry will do its utmost to address problems facing them, not least the destruction of their fishing gears by industrial fishing vessels operating in the designated Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ) and lack of inadequate fishing gears.
While highlighting some of the adverse effects of illegal fishing and the need to empower the artisanal fishing communities, Dr. Kabia informed the fishers that studies have shown that the country is losing $30 million annually as a result of the unscrupulous practice.
He further disclosed plans to establish Marine Protected Areas, revive the ministry’s outstations and upgrade the status of fish mongers in the country through ‘The Women in Fisheries Programme’. F.A.O’S representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Gabriel Rugalema pledged his organisation’s continued support to enable the sector realise its potentials.
He entreated the fishing communities in Bonthe to view the newly constructed fish landing site as theirs and make it a centre of activities. A representative from the African Development Bank, which funded the construction of four fish landing sites in the country, Christian Tucker commended staff of fisheries ministry and partners for the successful completion of the project and hoped they will be properly managed.
Acting Director of Fisheries, Alpha Bangura recalled days when fisheries projects were thriving in Sulima and Bonthe and assured all that the ministry’s outstations will soon be revived. The Town Chief of Sulima, Siaka Massaquoi described it as very lucrative area and called on Government and partners to help harness its natural resources. He lamented their poor standard of living and hoped they will benefit from government’s development plans.
The Chief Administrator of the Bonthe Distict Council, Frank Matia outlined a number development activities undertaken in the district and thanked Government for identifying itself with their plight. He spoke of the adverse effects of mining in the region and hoped reports of its Environmental and Social Impact Assessment will be considered.
The programmes which ended with interactive sessions also heard suggestions and recommendations from stakeholders, including the replacement of their confiscated gears, provision of modern fishing technologies, setting up of management committees to oversee the fishing facilities, construction of roads and the banning of the use of the Liberia dollar in Sulima and other border towns.