To provide affordable animal protein (quality fish and fishery products) for the population and contribute significantly to the GDP.

The ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has its mission to plan, develop, rationally mange and conserve all living aquatic resources of the country for the benefit of the country.

The Fisheries Sector Policy is to promote responsible and sustainable fishing practices through good governance while contributing to poverty reduction and wealth creation in Sierra Leone.

Mr Victor Kargbo, Head of the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Unit

msc


Sierra Leone lies between Latitudes 7◦ N and 10◦ N, and between Longitudes 10◦ 30'W and 13◦ W on the coast of West Africa. It is bordered on the North and Northeast by the Republic of Guinea, to the Southeast by Liberia and on the West by the Atlantic Ocean. Sierra Leone covers a total land area of about 71,740 km2 with a coastline of about 510 km. The continental shelf of the coast of Sierra Leone is about 100 km wide in the north and tapers to about 13 km in the south towards Liberia. The total continental shelf area covers about 30,000 km2. The coastline is characterized by extensive flora of mangrove plants, and a number of estuaries and rivers that are navigable for short distances.
Sierra Leone claimed the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 1982, and the total area of its limit is about 157,000 km2 which is two times more than the land area. The country has abundant fish resources that constitute a significant natural capital asset and have the potential of promoting sustainable economic growth and development. These valuable resources can sustain lucrative export markets and boost up foreign exchange earnings for the country. In addition, it also provides affordable much needed animal protein for the entire country. The fisheries sector is an important component in the Government's strategic vision to reduce poverty through enhancement of means of livelihoods, and contributes significantly to the National Gross Domestic Product, thus making the sector the third highest contributor to the economic growth of the country. Although the fisheries sector contributes significantly to the economic growth, yet its contribution is far below what is expected annually. Patrolling a coast line of 510 km and effectively policing the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) have been a major problem for a very long time, thus leaving the resource to the mercy of illegal fishers. The issue of surveillance is critical to the sustainable management of the fisheries resource.
The problems of Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing and piracy are serious issues facing the sector and thus leading to dis-investment and revenue loss. As a post war nation, Government lacks the capacity to monitor and control activities off shore. According to one EU report, Sierra Leone is losing about US$ 29 million annually to illegal fishing activities - a potentially much needed income that the sovereign state of Sierra Leone cannot afford to lose.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has evolved as a department under the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security before been established as a Ministry in 1994 by an Act of Parliament. As a Ministry it was tasked with the responsibility of managing, developing and conserving the fishery resources of the country.
The Ministry has then over the years tried various options in order to establish an efficient surveillance system for the effective protection of the country's fishery resources from illegal fishing activities and pirates, and are as follows;

  • Started deploying Fisheries Observers onboard licensed fishing vessels in 1994 and maintained daily catch report for all Fisheries Observers assigned to fishing vessels.
  • In 1996, Sierra Leone signed a regional agreement with SOCU under the Sub Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC) with support from the Grand Dutchy Luxemburg Development Programme to conduct both aerial and sea borne surveillance
  • From 2002 to June 2010 the Ministry with funds from the African Development Bank (ADB) supported the Maritime Wing of Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) with logistics to conduct fisheries patrols.
  • Since 2008, periodic collaborative surveillance patrols have been jointly conducted with the United States Coast Guards and the Government of SL which led to wider coverage of Sierra Leone EEZ.
  • In 2009, the Ministry signed MoU with different institutions for the establishment of the Joint Maritime Committee (JMC).This institution among other things is tasked with the responsibility of combating illegal maritime activities within Sierra Leone EEZ.
  • In 2010, the United States Government provided the JMC with Automatic Information System (AIS) and radar systems which are now being used in monitoring fishing vessel activities.
  • Also in 2010, the GoSL denounced the registration of fishing vessels with the New Orleans Ships Register due to so much inconsistency in monitoring these vessels.
  • The Ministry in 2011 initiated the installation of Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) transponders on all licensed fishing vessels below 250 GRT. Fishing vessels with GRT above 250 should display their AIS.
  • The West Africa Regional Fisheries Programme – Sierra Leone(WARFP-SL), a project meant to improve on the service delivery of the Ministry, has made funds available for the completion of various fisheries surveillance tasks, such as increased number of fisheries surveillance patrols per month; 24 hour manning of the monitoring centre, trainings for surveillance staff, etc.
  • The Ministry is making public updated fishing vessel license list every week to increase transparency of its activities; this also helps patrol officers in identifying poaching vessels.
  • In a bid to curb the rampant illegal transshipments taking place offshore, the Ministry/WARFP-SL hired a four metre long fast boat in January 2012 which led to the arrest of Marampa 803 (the second boat in the Aljazeera pirate fishing documentary). The team, determined to stop this menace went over 70nm offshore and the craft ran out of fuel. They were stranded at sea for three days with limited supply of water and no food.
  • In recognizing the effort made by the Ministry in combating illegal fishing activities with limited resources, the Isle of Man Government in the United Kingdom in 2012 donated a 15m long patrol vessel to help in the fight against illegal fishing activities in Sierra Leone. In addition, they donated sixty units of state of the art (Bluetrakker) Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) to remotely monitor the activities of licensed fishing vessels.
  • In a bid to combat illegal fishing activities in the artisanal fishery sector, the Ministry in 2013 distributed four Inshore Patrol Crafts to Bonthe, Shenge, Tombo and Konakridee. These crafts will also be used to monitor illegal fishing activities in some part of the Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ) by industrial fishing vessels.
  • The legal texts used in the fight against illegal fishing, The 1994 Fisheries Management and Development Act, and the 1995 Regulations are currently under review to reflect recently adopted international standards and best practice.
  • Having done all these, the country still lacks the capacity to establish presence in the entire EEZ as all the crafts are out of operations. Realizing this, the Ministry with support from WARFP-SL has procured a brand new patrol vessel "FPV Sorie Ibrahim Koroma" to maintain presence and secure our entire EEZ. The vessel will be delivered shortly.

Access to, and use of fisheries resources is regulated by the State, and this activity is referred to as fisheries management, of which the rules are enacted in texts of law. Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) is the enforcement arm of fisheries management, and its objective is to secure maximum compliance; but MCS cost money and so is combating IUU fishing.
Laws which are not enforced are useless. The State generate revenue through licensing on one side, and grants access to regulated resources on the other side. If part of the revenue is not invested in the policing of the rules, the resources will be depleted and the revenue forfeited. The State will then generate poverty and food self insufficiency from a resource that is renewable.
Personal View about IUU
IUU fishing is not accidental or spontaneous; it is premeditated, carefully planned and carried out in a coordinated fashion. Therefore, the fight against IUU fishing requires concerted efforts by all stakeholders.

Until nationals of coastal States are willing to fight against illegal fishing, until coastal States and regional organisations cooperate more effectively, until flag States are willing to prosecute their nationals for committing illegal fishing activities in foreign States, until market States adopt measures to ensure illegal products do not enter their markets; the fight against IUU fishing will continue to be an uphill task and will continue to plunge our aquatic resources in imminent danger.


By Victor H. Kargbo
Head, MCS Unit

 

msc combined team

Combined boarding team with the US Coast Guards

boarding team

Combined boarding team with the US Coast Guards

fisheries boarding team

Fisheries boarding team onboard a 4m patrol boat (Warrior Class) and can go up to 40nm offshore