The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Dr Soccoh Kabia has called on farmers and hunters to stop the massive hunting and killing of Manatee despite our national laws to protect and conserve marine mammals.
He made this call past Friday in a one day consultative workshop on the conservation and management of Manatee in Sierra Leone at the Presidential Lounge, National Stadium in Freetown.
The workshop which attracted Paramount Chiefs, Councilors, fishermen, Manatee hunters and meat sellers from all over the country examined the findings of a national survey conducted recently in Sierra Leone on the status of Manatee and will map the way forward to develop a National Plan of Action for its conservation and management.
Manatee commonly called ‘Mammy Wata’ is a migratory marine mammal which has been classified as vulnerable under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list of threatened species.
It is found in rivers, estuaries and lagoons and feeds exclusively on grass, more so on rice fields cultivated on river banks.
Dr Kabia stated that his Ministry has the statutory responsibilities for the development and management of all aquatic resources; including fish stocks. The Minister maintained that the 1994 Fisheries Management and Development Act provides the legal framework for the development and management of Fisheries.
He went on “It is my fervent hope that this consultative workshop on the conservation and management of Manatee will bring out issues that need clarification so that once Management Plan is put in place all aquatic users will understand its implications and help participate in its conservation to the fullest”. The Fisheries Minister appealed to the participants to be vigilant and report any illegal fishing activities carried out in our country. Representatives from Wetlands International (WI) Linnette John said that the Manatee Conservation Project- Sierra Leone is supported by them and implemented by the Fisheries Ministry.
She added that several surveys have indicated that the mortality rate of Manatee is high adding that the reproductive potentials of Manatee is low, i.e. one birth in every two years.
The objective of the Project, she reiterated is to help develop a frame work for the protection and conservation of Manatee for policy consideration.
In his statement the Acting Director of Fisheries Arnold Hotanga Robbie stressed that there is an indication that the presence of Manatee is declining due to rapid killing and hunting of them.
By Abibatu Kamara