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Fishing trade in Sierra Leone: a major boost to economic recovery

March 4, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi

Sierra Leone has 485km of coastline rich in lobsters, shrimps and shark fins providing vast scope for marine fishing and related industries. Part of the production is for export and part is released for local consumption.

Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources documents have shown that there is great industrial potential in the sector with a need for well organised deep-sea fishing.

A well organised fishery fleet for deep-sea resources would be a good earner of foreign exchange for the investor. The potential yield of the fisheries resources is estimated at around 200,000mt annually. The current production is about 70,000mt. Most coastal communities have used the fishing industry as a means of livelihood though on a small scale.

The industry has served as employment opportunities, for example, the people of Tombo community, who have the notion that one of the best ways of sustaining the fishing trade and industry is to protect the coastal communities and to provide an alternative for increased nutritional facility.

Sierra Leone is working hard to export fish to European countries through Precon Food Management. This, according to many traders in the fish industry, will bring more money in their pockets as well as foster major boost in the economic recovery process of the country.

The fisheries sector, once a key source of Sierra Leone’s exports, already accounts for around 10% of the country’s GDP and employs around 500,000 people. Given its exceptional potential, the fishing industry has been targeted as a priority growth sector in the President’s Agenda for Prosperity.

Sierra Leone’s coastal waters are known to have the largest numbers of fish as well as the largest species of fish in West Africa. During the war years, there was little fishing activity there and stocks of fish have increased.

Precon Project Development Manager, Jeffrey MaCarthy, has said their objective is to guarantee that the conditions of production of fishery products in Sierra Leone destined for export to the European Union (EU) are in line with the requirements laid down in community legislation and in particular with the health attestations contained in the certificate of the Commission Regulation (EC) No 2074/2005.

He said the project started in 2009 with an opening meeting in October in 2009 with the Competent Authority (CA), the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Fisheries, and requested for additional information required for the satisfactory completion of the mission which, according to him, is that the CA should ensure the official control for fish production intended for export to the EU be organoleptically checked, freshness indicators in case of doubt over the fish product, histamine, microbiological checks contaminant, although inspections undertaken by the CA are not complete and not adequate as of 2013.

He said the CA should also ensure that official controls for fish production include control of water and ice in line with the relevant community requirement, but they are yet to be included in the regular inspection, adding that they should provide guarantees that any vessel or establishment involved is under supervision, which is still inadequate.

Mr. MaCarthy maintained that the EU road to Certification Progress report 2013 focused on four areas of immediate intervention, which are product assurance regarding food safety, legal compliance, risk management and monitoring; industry performance regarding hygiene, sanitation and self-control in line with accepted standard; governments’ managerial capacity (planning and budgeting) in operating procedures, scientific based risk management; and legislation to ensure that international trusted legal provisions and sanctions are in place to ensure that importing countries buy safe products.

He said all four areas of intervention were supposed to have been implemented by November this year, but had to be put on hold until after the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

On 2 March, 2015, a new Pan-African project was launched to strengthen the continent’s great potential for increased trade in fish. Africa, a continent that is endowed with plentiful fish resources in oceans, rivers, lakes, floodplains and fish farms, accounts for just 4.9% of global fish trade.

More efficient trade could significantly improve income and nutrition for millions of Africans, particularly those 12.3 million that are directly employed in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.

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