Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio Unveils Plans to Manage Marine Resources, Blames IUU on Corrupt Regimes

Freetown, Tuesday 24 November 2020 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has unveiled plans to tackle Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing while expanding on the sector that is currently contributing 10-12 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

Before he launched a set of equipment for sustainable fisheries management at Murray Town, west of Freetown, the President disclosed that his government inherited a fisheries and marine resources sector that was riddled with corruption and mismanagement.

“Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing was rife. Tax evasion, underreporting, overfishing, by mainly illegal vessels within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was destroying the country’s fish stock, destroying the marine ecosystem, and depriving artisanal fishers and the entire artisanal fishing community chain of their livelihoods.

“We should recognise that IUU thrives where there are corrupt national regimes, poor national and international legal frameworks, ineffective or non-existent enforcement mechanisms, and more. As with corruption, IUU thrives when risks are low for operatives and their cohorts. Like corruption, we must make illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing risky and more expensive,” he said.

President Bio further told the occasion, which attracted government regulators and private sector investors in the sector, that IUU was a national security threat to lives and livelihoods because it had directly impacted the local fishing industry that was providing jobs for over 500,000 Sierra Leoneans.

He noted that the loss of livelihoods had exacerbated poverty in coastal communities, whose major source of income was fishing, adding that there were implications for the wider economy with a lower supply of fish in the local market and higher prices and also dietary implications with fish being a major source of protein.

He referred to the New Direction manifesto, which, among other things, proposed strategies to maintain sustainable and viable fisheries and marine resources ecosystem, good governance and a reduction in illegal fishing, adding that the focus, therefore, was to put in place a holistic, sustainable, and permanent fix.

“We argued in the New Direction manifesto that ‘standalone Government action has proven inadequate and ineffective to curb this menace’ of IUU. My Government believes that coordinated and timely action and enforcement mechanisms across the sub-region and within international organisations, in which Sierra Leone is a member, can help us wrest back full control of our fisheries and marine resources. I expect the Ministry to maintain an active presence in those international forums and to project our voices and concerns while actively seeking collaboration.

“My Government has also invested in hard assets to strengthen the monitoring, control, and surveillance of the fisheries sector. I am pleased to announce the following: Six Inshore Patrol boats for patrolling coastal inshore waters and for conducting community surveillance and extension services to coastal fishing communities; 23 VHF and UHF radio communication equipment for effective marine communication and daily update of field activities; 2,500 life jackets to be sold at a subsidised rate to fishing communities at various fisheries outstations to ensure safety of life at sea; Tablets and Android phones for data collection

“We have made a lot of progress within two short years. I am pleased to inform you that with sound policies and practices, my administration increased revenue generation in the fishing industry to over 100.5 Billion Leones ($10.5 million) in 2019. Even with Covid-19, the sector has been able to generate close to Le 78bn from January – to date, 2020. This is just from tightening regulations and clamping down on corrupt practices,” he concluded.

Deputy Minister of Finance 1, Dr Patricia Laverley, said the equipment, costing the government of Sierra Leone about Le18.2 billion, would help to alert of illegal activities, help the sector serve as the basis for the development of economic diversification, ensure a more reliable source of tax revenue for the country.

”The fishing communities in this country have suffered for far too long from the lack of support to utilise the potential of their marine resource base. To the extent that we have had to be fighting with illegal exploitation of our marine resources or relying on taxes that are full of tax evasion challenges,” she noted.

“As a Government that believes in compliance, we have had to go through the appropriate procurement procedures to award the contracts to the suppliers,” she concluded.

Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Honourable Emma Kowa–Jalloh, said that the day was very important for the protection and conservation of the country’s marine resources, noting that the sector had provided over five hundred thousand jobs for Sierra Leoneans who depended on fisheries resources either directly or indirectly as a source of livelihood.

Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Honourable Emma Kowa–Jalloh

She explained that the sector had also provided foreign exchange, tax revenues and was the cheapest source of animal protein and nutrition, which is very key to addressing food security and malnutrition.

“Your Excellency Sir, the six inshore patrol craft in display be along the coastal communities at the fisheries outstations of Goderich, Tombo, Konakridee, Shenge, Bonthe, Gbondapi and in Sulima to support the surveillance activities in the respective areas,” she noted.

The Minister also stated that the inshore patrol craft would improve the effectiveness of their staff and other local fishing communities in the management and protection of the breeding and spawning grounds of fish in the country’s inshore waters. 

“The Ministry procured 2,500 quality lifejackets, which will be distributed at the community level. More so, each of the six IPCs is equipped with safety gear, navigational and communication equipment. This will improve effective data collection at the community level,” she affirmed.

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