A one day consultative forum on fisheries management issues which brought together hundreds of fishermen, councilors, parliamentarians, navy and fisheries technical staff and officials from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) has ended at the National Stadium Atlantic Hall in Freetown.
The forum was organized by the MFMR in collaboration with the Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography supported by the European Union and GOPA Consultancy for fishing communities, private sector organizations and other stakeholders was to look at the problems facing the fishing sector in the country and to discuss the way forward.
In her keynote address, Minister of FMR, Haja Afsatu Kabba said that almost everyday she has observed how women folk toil to ensure that fish is in the market.
She emphasized that one of the major concerns of this government is to lift the ban of our fish in the European market.
Haja Afsatu Kabba further maintained that government is committed to setting up commissions to stop illegal fishing and also reestablish fish jetties and stations in the country.
The Minister observed the forum objectives to be full of innovative strategies for positive changes, urging stakeholders to grasp the skills for ease of implementation.
Haja Afsatu Kabba underscored the relevance of the Institutional Support for Fisheries on the ground and called for a thorough identification of all problems for the attainment for sustainable solutions.
National Coordinator for Institutional Support for Fisheries Management (ISMF) projects Dr Mohamed Seisay said that the project has four components: all leading to improve fishing management.
The first he said, is to establish the status of expected fish resources, which will be done through surveys, data collection in the industrial and in the artisanal sector.
Second, Dr Seisay said is to bring out a realistic fishing policy document that reflects the current status of the sector.
Thirdly, he noted is to strengthen the Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography as a major research fish centre that will give scientific advice to the Ministry for fishing management.
The last, he stated is to develop a fishing management program through a broad consultative process.
Dr Seisay pointed out that the project is trying to develop fishing management measures in close collaboration with all stakeholders including establishing marine protected areas, selective gear, mash size regulation, participation method in fishing surveillance seasonal closure, reclassification of the artisanal fisheries and home management of the resources.
Ibrahim Turay, a Research Officer in the Ministry, presented the current stock of marine biodiversity in the territorial waters of Sierra Leone to be 130, 500 metric tons (mt) for darmacel, 1,373 mt for shrimps and 1,966mt for others available for industrial fishing and 111,937 mt for artisanal fishery.
Turay disclosed that the survey revealed that 188 species are available in the territorial waters of Sierra Leone.
Director of Fisheries, Alhaji Mohamed Sheriff said the forum was a fulfillment of the responsibility of his ministry in carrying out vital activities in the fishery sector, educating the populace of the best fishing resources in the country.
Sheriff further spoke of the ongoing bad fishing methods and how they have considerably reduced the resources.
Director of the Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography at Fourah Bay College (FBC) Professor Ernest N’domahina said that estuaries where river water and sea salt water meet are critical marine areas.
He stated that fish lay eggs in the deep sea but drift the young fish to the mangroves, their nursery homes in the coastal areas.
Professor N’domahina pointed out that agriculture, mangrove logging, salt production, use of poisons, explosives, channel nets, beach seines and sand mining activities reduce fish population considerably.
Head of European Commission, Hans Allden reiterated that the country has interesting marine resources and the people should protect the resources to maximize benefits from them.