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Page added on September 21, 2012
A cross-section of members of the Murray Town Fish Mongers Association met with the minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources to discuss a number of issues affecting them, not least, the scarcity of fish and penalties meted against illegal fishing vessels.
Speaking on behalf of her colleagues, the spokesperson of the organization, Claudia Kayorde who gave a brief historical sketch of her association, said they started encountering serious fish shortage during reign of former minister of fisheries, Haja Afsatu Kabba when foreign vessels especially Korean flagged (Black Face) fishing vessels started leaving the shores of Sierra Leone as a result of what she called exorbitant fines levied against them by government. She lamented that the Murray Town Community which once operated an effective Fish Depots is no longer in operation, adding that their main fish supplier, Okeky Fishing Agency cannot provide enough fish for the community as usual. She informed the minister that a number of foreign boat owners have threatened to stop operating in Sierra Leone because of heavy fines levied against them and appealed for a reduction of penalties so as to encourage the investors.
Madam Kayorde called on government to encourage more investors in the fishing sector to ensure employment is provided for youths in the area most of whom, she said have resorted to sand mining. She commended the ministry for initiating reforms in the industry aimed at curbing illegal fishing such as the introduction of the Vessel Monitoring Systems, a device that monitors the activities of fishing vessels among others and hoped the ministry would address their concerns.
She ended by requesting for a meeting between them and fishing companies so as to find a lasting solution to the problems.
Responding, the Minister of Marine Resources, Dr. Soccoh Kabia (in photo) appreciated the fish sellers concerns, saying “it is only through dialogue that issues of national development could be addressed”.
On the issue of fish scarcity, Dr. Kabia reiterated that the nation encounter fish shortage during rainy season every year. Displaying the 1994 Fisheries Act, the minister informed the women that the ministry is mandated by law to enforce the Fisheries Act, noting that they are not empowered to review its provisions without going through parliament and other stakeholders. “The Act clearly stipulates penalties for violating fisheries laws which we are enforcing”, he added.
Dr. Kabia said efforts were being made by his ministry and partners such as the World Bank to enable the industry effectively deliver its service.
On measures aimed at ensuring that fish is available in the market, he said they will ensure vessel owners surrender by-catch to the local markets give companies concessions to enable them operate as well as review fisheries laws and policies that would streamline the industry. He also disclosed plans to construct a modern Fishing Harbor at Murray Town through the World Bank’s West Africa Regional Fisheries Programme.
Director of Fisheries Alpha Bangura said his ministry has always been providing the enabling environment for investors to operate in the fisheries sector, adding that most of the vessels that have stopped operating are those that have violated the fisheries laws, citing the recently arrested Korean flagged vessel, Marcia 7777.
Head of the Fisheries Protection Unit in the Ministry of Fisheries, Victor Kargbo informed the gathering that 345% of the world’s fish stock is dwindling and stressed the need to step up surveillance of the country‘s territorial waters. He urged Sierra Leoneans to opt for strong partnership in the fisheries sector so as to achieve maximum benefit rather than serving as mere agents. He also attributed the scarcity of fish in the Murray town to persistent harassment of fishermen by security personnel and the illegal purchase of fish by foreign vessels from local fishing vessels .
A MAX Konneh, Press Officer, MFMR
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