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60% illegal fishing in Salone waters

- 80 foreign trawlers in fishing activities, …World Bank Country Manager

February 11, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai

Parminder Brar, World Bank Country Manager in Sierra Leone

Parminder Brar, World Bank Country Manager in Sierra Leone

Some eighty foreign trawlers are carrying out fishing activities in the Sierra Leone territorial waters, according to the Country Manager of the World Bank in Sierra Leone, Parminder Brar.

He made this disclosure at a press conference held at the Bank’s office on Howe Street in Freetown yesterday, where he further disclosed that the World Bank had come in to support the fisheries sector in 2010 with the sum of US$28m (twenty eight million United States dollars).

“Before we started supporting the sector, there were 80 trawlers doing fishing [in the country’s waters]. When we started that number was reduced to 30 because of the Joint Management Centre (JMC) that we set up to monitor illegal fishing,” said Brar, adding however that currently, the number of foreign trawlers has increased again to 80 and that there is 60% illegal fishing going on in the country’s territorial waters.

The World Bank country chief noted that the increase in the number of fishing vessels could not be unconnected to the license fees trawler owners pay to the government, stating that “government only collects 1% license fees of the value of the fishing vessel while in Liberia people pay 10% to the government to license trawlers”.

Another factor was the collapse of the Joint Monitoring Centre, which used to monitor illegal fishing activities in the waters of Sierra Leone, he added and disclosed that the JMC was destroyed by lightening some two years ago.

“Currently there is no satellite and internet connection at the JMC in Murray Town, and there are only three staff there at the moment,” Brar told newsmen. “In the light of this, the World Bank is supporting the fishing sector with US$4m to improve on it.”

He said the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP) began working with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in 2009, and that in 2012, pair trawling was banned by a Presidential decree. He said a six-mile inshore exclusion zone was established, and trawlers were equipped with vessel monitoring, thus leading to many Asiatic vessels deciding not to continue [with their fishing activities].

“By 2013, fish landing sites increased to 30% and important species were not caught by trawlers. Shrimps and larger sardinella were increasing profits for the nation’s 38,000 fishermen,” he recalled and added that by the time of the Ebola crisis, the artisanal fishery was landing an estimated 120,000 tons of fish and providing protein supply at affordable prices throughout Sierra Leone.

Brar pointed out that the WARFP project concentrated on developing the capacity of fishing communities in order to help them manage their fisheries resources in the future, and that all canoes and fishermen were registered at the time with 31 community management associations formed.

Byelaws, he said, were established and legal registrations of trawlers were completed, noting that marine protected areas in four coastal areas for the conservation of fish breeding grounds were surveyed, baselines established and gazetted in law as protected for the future.

“Revenues to government from the fishing sector were Le6 billion in 2008 and increased to Le30.5 billion by December 2014 when the WARFP project was brought to a halt,” he observed. “The vision for the future is a fishery by Sierra Leone owned businesses, catching and adding value for food security, phasing out foreign trawlers and a coastal fishery managed at community level.”