The World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone, Parminder Brar, yesterday in a press briefing raised serious concern over the present Condition of the Joint Monitoring Centre that was set up to monitor illegal fishing along the coast of Sierra Leone.
It could be recalled that the World Bank started work in developing the West African Regional Fisheries Programme as a way of preventing the problem of rampant illegal fishing by Asiatic and European fishing vessels that took over from the previous industrial fisheries by factory vessels from Russia.
Industrial fisheries in many African countries including Sierra Leone was out of control with many illegal trawlers, some of which are destructive pair fishing right up the coast and most of these vessels destroyed artisanal fishing gears, prevented native fishermen from fishing and reduced fish stock by catching juveniles.
According to the World Bank Manager, Sierra Leone has some of the best fishing grounds in the world which leads the sector to contribute about 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), disclosing that before World Bank intervention in the fisheries sector in 2010, there were a lot of exploitation of the fishing stock by illegal trawlers.
He maintained that President Ernest Bai Koroma took a very strong action in 2012 by banning such kind of fishing by trawlers and the Joint Monitoring Centre was established to monitor illegal fishing in the country through the use of raiders and satellites, a situation that led the fish catchers in the coastal communities to increase their catch by 30 percent which in turn increase the income of fishing communities to sixteen Million US dollars ($16m) in 2014.
Parminder Brar disclosed that JMC which was monitoring the illegal activities of trawlers had been shut down for 2 years now due to electricity shortage, damaged raiders as a result of thunder lightening and non-internet connectives.
He stated that lack of fund is responsible for the non-repairs of the raiders for 2 years and that without internet connection the whole system is useless as the satellites will not be in operation. “We have a major issue that the main monitoring centre in Sierra Leone to monitor illegal fishing has basically shut down for the last 2 years,” he says.
Before the involvement of World Bank in the fisheries sector in Sierra Leone there were more than 80 trawlers operating in the water but with the setting up of JMC with stringent measures the number was cut down to 30, disclosing that based on the 2016 statistics the number has gone back to 80 as a result of over fishing which needs urgent attention by the Government and partners, according to him.
The World Bank Country Manager said the quantum of license fees is another issue affecting the fisheries industry as Sierra Leone is charging only 1 percent of the value of the fishing vessels as license fees whereas Liberia is charging 10 percent of the value of the vessel for their license fees which is why a lot of trawlers are coming into Sierra Leone to fish.
He furthered that if the fisheries industry in Sierra Leone is handled properly it will replace the declining mining industry which was badly affected by the decrease in iron ore price that contracted the country’s economy by 20 percent in 2015, maintaining that the current fish catch in Sierra Leone is 10 times to that of Liberia.
By Alhaji M Kamara
Thursday February 11, 2016