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Law to eliminate illegal and unregulated fishing ratified

June 2, 2017 By Jariatu S. Bangura

In a bid to meet some international obligations as well as advance Sierra Leone’s interest, Lawmakers yesterday ratified agreement on port state measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing across the country.

Presenting the agreement for ratification, Minister of State I, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Mohamed Gibril Sesay, said illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a major problem in the country and that it poses a serious threat to the effective conservation and management of many fish stocks.

He said the trend of illegal, unreported and unregulated  fishing activities includes operating without authorization, harvesting protected species, using outlawed fishing gears and violating quota limits, adding that the  practice accounts for up to 26million tons of seafood every year, which is more than 15% of the total global output.

Besides the challenges and damage  it poses to local biodiversity and food security in many countries, Dr. Sesay stated that it also leads to loss of economic revenue, both directly through fish sales and indirectly through social opportunities such as employment.

He said illicit fishing operations are also often linked to other crimes, such as tax evasion, money laundering, smuggling and violation of labour standards, each of which taken an additional toll.

“The agreement seeks to promote collaboration between fishermen, port authorities, coast guards and navies to strengthen inspections and control procedures at ports and vessels. It also allows states to prevent the landing of catches derived from IUU fishing by vessels regardless of the flag they fly, noting that it aims to harmonize port controls in order to prevent illegally caught fish from ever entering international markets through ports,” he said.

He said in order to tackle the menace; the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) adopted the agreement in 2009 and envisaged that parties in their capacities as port states would apply the agreement in an effective manner to enhance monitoring and regulation of the activities of foreign vessels seeking entry to ports of state parties to the agreement.

He said it could only come into force after ratification by 25 countries of which only 15 countries have done so.

In his contributions, Hon. Dauda J.B. Kallon of the All People’s Congress (APC), said it was now common that the country was losing huge sum of money due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities in the country.

 He said now that such agreement was in parliament for ratification, it showed that there was need to tighten the knot in order to eliminate the process of illegal fishing.

“Year in and year out, we realized that it is difficult to calculate the fishing vessels that are currently in our country, neither do we know if they are registered or if they are complying with the laws of the country. The answer is no, so how do we clamp down on their activities? A lot of fishing activities are done but all the fishes are being taken to a nearby country where it is being repackaged, rebranded with their names and then taken to the EU of which Sierra Leone benefits nothing,” he said.

He stated that the illegal fishermen were making huge money whereas the country continues to lose.

“We have supervisors or monitors that onboard those vessels working for the Ministry of Fisheries but where are they? They are there working for vessel owners, because they pay them in order not to be reported to the ministry. A number of vessels travelled every day and if we fail to address this issue, the country will continue to lose even more,” he said.

Hon. Helen Kuyembeh of the Sierra Leone People’s party (SLPP) stated that the agreement was very much important for the country; therefore it should be treated with all seriousness and given extreme attention.

He added that in order to address illegal fishing, the country needs all revenue to support eliminate it.

“Illegal boats are there but cannot be detected. As a matter of fact, there are some mechanisms that should be put in place to address the situation. As lawmakers, we should make sure that we prevail in this issue in order to help the government. Even though we would not be able to totally eliminate, but we can reduce the activities. We cannot access the EU market because our fishing market is not good enough to manage or repackage our products very well in order to help the situation,” she said.

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