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Sierra Leone News: Commercial fishing ban ends today – Sierra Fishing company opening doors for Chinese trawlers

Sierra Fishing company, the largest industrial fishing company in Sierra Leone has transformed into a haven for a fleet of Chinese trawlers to operate in seafood export. The company, in partnership with Chinese trawlers, process and supply seafood to markets in Africa, Asia and Europe through a fleet of trawlers and reefer vessels. “Our Company currently has a fleet of twenty vessels and eight are with partnership with Chinese trawlers,” Fadia Mohamed, Operations Manager Sierra Fishing Company said. With 350 agents locally, Sierra Fishing Company also exports to Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Liberia. “Sierra Fishing Company has 150,000 cartons of fish stocked in cold rooms during the one month fishing ban to supply the local market to avoid shortage,” Fadia Mohamed said.  The fishing industry is predominantly operated by foreigners. “We want the Government to offer tax concessions to the fishing sector so as to boost the industry and create jobs.” “The huge operational cost for trawlers, the license fee needs to go down a bit,” Fadia Mohamed said during a tour. The 30-day ban is the first in the history of Sierra Leone, since 1955, when the first industrial fishing vessels arrived. Artisanal fishermen welcomed it, but said it isn’t sufficient to allow the fish to grow and stocks to replenish. “It’s great, it’s long overdue. But at the same time, it should be contingent upon research in terms of exactly the duration of the closure,” Lecturer at Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography Professor Andrew Baio said at the balcony of Fourah Bay College Common room building. “It’s a wake-up call, that we need to do something about our resources because they are not being managed in a proper way,” Professor Andrew Baio said. “So this ban is a token that people have realized that something has to be done. It could take a long time before stocks can recover,” Prof. Baio added. Ian Ralby, Maritime Crime Expert with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said that the main problems Sierra Leone is facing is patrol capacity, corruption and small penalties for those caught fishing illegally. The Vice President of Sierra Leone at the beginning of the industrial ban this month, said the Government is diversifying the economy and has identified the fishery sector as one key area to generate revenue for the support of Government social programs such as health, water and infrastructure. He spoke about government’s plans to provide solar panels to most of the fishing communities in the country, which is to make sure that artisanal fishermen transact business in a transparent environment especially after 7:00 p.m. in the evening. Bassem Jamil Mohamed, Chair of the Association of Industrial Fishing in Sierra Leone, said that the Government’s plans to prevent the decline of fish stock in Sierra Leone should be welcomed.  Sierra Leone has a potential to earn more than $50 million USD annually from fishing. But the government gets less than $18 million USD, largely because of illegal fishing and inability to police the country’s seas, according to a World Bank 2013 Report. The sector contributes to food and nutrition security, and provides jobs, in particular for coastal populations, which are often among the poorest and most vulnerable.  On average globally, fish and fish products account for 18% of animal protein intake. Due to the growing population and per capita income, demand for fish is expected to increase 30% by 2030. If the current trend continues without management, the poorest countries will suffer the most, the World Bank warned in the report. The African Union’s Agenda 2063 declares the Blue Economy to be “Africa’s Future,” and recognizes the key role the ocean plays as a catalyst for socioeconomic transformation.

SB/29/4/19

By Saidu Bah

Tuesday April 30, 2019.

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