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To curb illegal fishing…

World Bank lines-up $60m fisheries project

April 18, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara

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Group photo taken outside the JOC conference Hall, Murray Town

The World Bank Country Manager in Sierra Leone has disclosed to newsmen last Thursday at the conference hall of the Joint Operation Centre (JOC) in Murray Town that the Bank has lined- up a sixty million United States Dollars project for the fishery sector.

Parminder P.S. Brar told a joint presser organised by his office, European Union (EU), the United States Embassy, and the JOC, that the scheme would be inaugurated next month as there was an ongoing four million Dollar  project.

He said the Bank was committed to continuing its successful partnership with the government of Sierra Leone through the WARFP (West African Regional Fisheries Programme), because the sub region fishing grounds were some of the richest in the world.

He noted that West African countries were losing $10 billion each year to illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing, which he said posed a serious challenge not only to Sierra Leone or Africa but also the world at large.

“The World Bank recognises the challenges Sierra Leone faces in managing its natural resources. The Bank remains fully committed to supporting the government in ensuring that the fisheries sector is sustainable and profitable. We believe that the fishing industry is absolutely critical for Sierra Leone that is why starting next month, we would be preparing a USD$60 million project for supporting fisheries in the country,” he disclosed.

The sector is the second highest contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. In 2016, it contributed Le56 billion to the national revenue but illegal activities offshore are needed to be addressed.

The World Bank chief urged government to repatriate some of the monies generated by the sector to the Joint Maritime Committee (JMC) in order to augment their financial needs.

On his part, United States Ambassador, John Hoover said his government believed that the country’s maritime domain has vast potential to benefit the citizens, hence  his government recently provided coastal radar, a shipment transponder identification system, and technological upgrades to the computer system at the JOC.

He said the upgrades would beef up security surveillance and improved ability to combat the many illegal activities occurring offshore, and that they were also supporting the country to develop a National Maritime Strategy.

“Protecting Sierra Leone’s Maritime space and its resources is complex and requires a coordinated whole-of-government. With the radar system and other upgrades at the JOC, we call on the JOC to aggressively protect the country’s maritime space by detecting, interdicting and fining illegal vessels in Sierra Leone waters,” he said.

Demonstrating how the radar and Automatic Information System (AIS) work, Head of Operations at JOC, Alex Daniel Kamara, said the radar gives them a real time vision of the sea view at about 12 nautical miles from the Queen Elizabeth Quay, but noted that it was not enough as any other activities happening beyond those areas could not be visible to them.

“With the help of the AIS and the radar, we get correct maritime information but the range of the radar is too short, that is why we are asking the US government to see how best they can help us so that we can have a better and wider coverage of the radar more especially when the Capelite house will be functioning. We would be able to have a better and correct maritime picture but for now what is happening in our habour area beyond 12 nautical miles is invisible to us,” he said.

He said timely response to apprehending illegal vessels; low internet bandwidth, power outage and the unavailability of fuel to power the standby generator, were major challenges at the JOC.

Earlier, Lieutenant Hassan Conteh, Commander of the JMC, stated that the country’s water body needed to be protected as it wasn’t only contributing to the GDP but also employed 15% of the population.

He noted that to alleviate the many challenges at the JOC, they have recommended a change in status from a ‘Committee’ to a ‘Commission,’ which he said required political will.

“If this is achieved, the burning issue of funding to the JMC would have been addressed as there would be a running budget for the JMC. This is important because it enhance sustainable operation and construction of a formidable maritime infrastructure to safeguard the porous space for both security reasons and the economy of this nation,” he stated.

He called on development partners to support the installation of the remaining radar along the coast to fully monitor and fill the economic basket of the nation.

The Charge d’Affaires of the EU delegation, Inga Krastina mentioned that the fight against illegal activities at sea, more especially IUU fishing were critical for the country particularly in terms of food security.

While she assured of EU’s cooperation with other development partners to fight against the IUU fishing, she also urged the country to reinforce regional cooperation.