Bonthe Island is situated in the South of Sierra Leone, which borders the Atlantic Ocean in the West, Moyamba to the North West, Bo to the South East and Pujehun to the South.
With a total of five chiefdoms in the riverein areas, fishing is their major source of income for their livelihoods.
However the once booming fishing industry is now struggling. The artisanal fishermen struggle to get fish to eat or supply the mainland and this they say is mainly due to neglect by government and donors to build their capacity.
The Bonthe District Fisheries Manager Richard A Kakpindi attributed the decline in catch to the banning of fishing gears and wrong gears which have also flooded the market.
He highlighted some of the illegal fishing gears that are used to catch small fish such as the ‘Chaka Chaka’ (monofelamid nylon net), ‘non-finger’ net and the dredge net used by ‘chain’ boats which he said is dangerous because it removes all the fingerlings and young fish in the water.
He added that, presently there are not enough fish in the water and the people residing within the river rain areas are suffering because the fishing industry is declining drastically causing hunger and abject poverty to the people of Bonthe.
Mr. Kakpindi also blamed some Korean fishing trawlers who destroy local fishing nets because they flout the demarcated sea line at the EEZ zone and penetrate deep in to the area reserved for the local fishermen.
This has left many losing their fishing nets worth millions of Leones and no compensation is given to the poor fishermen.
He also disclosed that, the Maritime Wing of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces based on Bonthe Island have been provided with a boat and all necessary logistics to supervise the territorial waters in the area, and this has reduced the infiltration by trawlers into the area to destroy fishing net.
He added that, the use of safety jackets at sea by both local fishermen and boat owners had been a major problem in the Island, as passengers and fishermen’s lives are at stake during sea voyages despite plans to make the life jackets available on a loan basis by harbor masters to sea farers.
He catalogued some of their constraints which include provision of ice for the preservation of fish as salted fish is not too hygienic for consumption.
Other constraints include a first class harbor, cold room, ice plant fishing harbor, boat building yard and fuel station to ease fishing constraints in the Island. By Saidu Bah