By Max A. Konneh, Press Officer, MFMR
The inaugural meeting of the Sierra Leone/China Joint Technical Committee on the implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in China between the two countries has ended at the Conference Hall of the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown.
The signing of the agreement was geared towards the promotion of the existing bilateral cooperation between the two countries and measures that would ensure sustainable management of the country’s marine resources.
Among issues addressed during the meeting were, the need to create an enabling environment for investment in the fisheries sector, construction of a modern Harbour, development of Inland fishing and Aquaculture, monitoring, control and surveillance of the country’s territorial waters, assessment of fish stock, fish processing and quality control, capacity building and development of an information and communication mechanism on fishing yields.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Hon. Emma Kowa Jalloh, expressed the urgent need for support to enable her ministry overcome challenges facing it, especially in the area of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing. She appreciated the ongoing effort of the Chinese government in ensuring that the two countries achieve the desired goals stated in the MoU. Outlining some of the challenges facing the sector, she expressed the need for a sustained and comprehensive fish stock assessment to ascertain the status of the fisheries and marine environment, construction of a modern harbor, training of manpower and provision of equipment to address the problems of illegal fishing. She also called for the development of Aquaculture and Artisanal Fisheries Sector which she noted will promote development in fisheries communities and the country as a whole. Hon. Kowa Jalloh, recalled Sierra Leone delegation’s visit to China last year which also led to the formation of the Sierra Leone China Fishing Association and hoped the Chinese government will fully implement criteria stated in the agreement including strong capacity and ability to operate in line with the country’s policies, laws and regulations. Welcoming the delegation earlier, the minister thanked the Chinese government for their continued cooperation and hoped the two countries will realize mutual benefits from the activities of the MoU. Responding the Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in the People’s Republic of China, YU KANGZHEN congratulated the new minister on her new appointment, noting that the ceremony will further strengthen the existing fisheries cooperation between the two countries. Sierra Leone and China, he said have established a long standing relations since 1971. He said it was later solidified in 2014, when they worked shoulder to shoulder with Sierra Leone to fight against the Ebola Virus Disease and in 2017 when an agreement was signed between the two countries on fisheries cooperation. Mr. KANGZHEN said Sierra Leone and China enjoys a long history of fisheries cooperation since 1980 when a large fleet of Chinese fishing vessels started operating in the country and appreciated the valuable support Sierra Leone has provided for them over the years. While appreciating what he referred to as impressive proposals in the MoU, he described the initiative as the beginning of a new era in the history of the two countries, adding that proper implementation of activities in the agreement requires a lot of work and full participation of stakeholders including the private sector. He hoped the bilateral cooperation between the two countries will grow from strength to strength and pledged his government’s continued support. President of the Sierra Leone Industrial Fishing Association, Bassem Mohamed, gave a brief overview of the operation of Chinese fishing companies in the country, noting that fisheries cooperation between his company and the Chinese has started 33 years ago. He intimated that the operation of Chinese fishing vessels in the country have contributed greatly to the country’s local needs and socio-economic development and looked forward to the transformation of the industry into an enviable entity in line with the new direction agenda and policies of the ministry of fisheries. He appealed to Chinese investors to provide support for onshore fisheries activities and work with local fishing industries in the country to ensure they meet international standards and promote sustainable management of the resources. Mr. Mohamed also called on them to undertake feasibility studies and engage in Aquaculture and Mari culture so as to reduce the pressure on capture fisheries.
He looked forward to the successful implementation of the agreement and pledged his support to the document in its entirety. The Senior Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries, Mrs. Mariatu Koroma who chaired the programme thanked the delegation for the visit and hoped the initiative would yield fruits for the benefit of both countries. Senior management staff of the fisheries ministry in Sierra Leone, including the Acting Director, Mrs. Kadijatu Jalloh, Director General, China’s Bureau of Fisheries, Zhang Xianliang, Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Wu Peng also made meaningful contributions at the ceremony which was also attended by representatives of Industrial Fishing Associations and a cross- section of the Press.