Fishermen complain gov’t unfulfilled promise
By Jariatu Bangura
Fishermen in Bonthe Island and other fishing villages in the provinces last weekend told members of the Parliamentary Committee on Fisheries, who were on a visiting tour, that government through the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, was yet to fulfil promises they made last year to provide them with fishing nets following a fire accident which destroyed their fishing nets.
Because many of the communities visited depend on fishing as a livelihood, the fire accident left scores without nets, thus depriving them of income and food.
Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Rtd. Capt. Momodu Allieu Pat-Sowe who was also part of the delegation, did not comment on the villagers’ claim. Rather, he disclosed that a lot of fishing companies across the country operate illegally without the knowledge of the ministry.
He told the lawmakers that the ministry was grappling with challenges, including illegal fishing which takes place approximately 20 nautical miles away from the coast, and that the ministry lacks capacity to trace boats involved in the illegal activity.
“One of the companies that operate illegally is Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF). Two years ago they came and sought attestation from the ministry but since then we have not heard anything from them,” he revealed and promised to avail to the MPs names of companies operating illegally in the country, for investigation.
However, Hon. Thomas Mark Turay disputed the minister’s claim that EJF was illegally operating on the island, averring that the company operates under legal license and was providing jobs for many members of the community who are solely dependent on fishing.
Minster Pat-Sowe also said that many companies had initially secured licenses from the ministry, although a good number of them are yet to renew them upon expiry.
He said they are on the verge of seeking support from other countries for equipment to help trace illegal fishing boats in the country’s waters, disclosing that no Sierra Leonean owns a fishing boat in the country, which he blamed for the lack of fish in the market.
In his statement, chairman of the committee, Hon. Patrick Foyah, said their mandate is to provide oversight supervision over activities of the ministry and also to ensure they contribute to the sustainable development of Sierra Leoneans.
He urged the officials at the ministry to work assiduously with the committee for effective and efficient operations, so as to maximize the goals and objectives of the ministry.
Hon. Turay revealed that the jetty built in Bonthe does not have a functioning cold room and urged the government to employ more youth to work in the industry instead of them roaming the island without jobs.
He said the island has a huge tourist attraction but accused government of neglecting the district. More tourists, he said, would visit if there is an improvement in the infrastructure.