The piles of seaweed that was washed ashore along Sierra Leone’s coastline, covering the white sand beaches and its estuaries, fishermen say ‘is causing them a low catch of fish’.
They also complained that the tons of sea weed floating on the sea are entangling their fishing nets and propellers of their outboard machines.
About 15 miles of beaches have been affected and that is said to be in Shenge, Banana Island, Tombo, Goderich, Lakka and other areas along the Peninsula.
More seaweed is expected to wash the beaches says Abdulai Gassama, a Research Assistant at the Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography at FBC, who has been following the Wetlands International Africa Scientists from Senegal for samples for laboratory tests.
Residents and entertainment owners affected along the 4km-long Lumley Beach in the west of Freetown, said they were startled by the appearance of the thick brown seaweed.
EPA and few other partners are working to identify the source and cause, whether it is as a result of a seismic survey for oil and gas exploration in Sierra Leone.
Another likely cause could be dredging being undertaken by mining companies or dumping of trash or toxic chemical waste by international shipping vessels, but we don’t have sure answers for now says the Environmental Protection Agency’s Executive Director, Khadijatu Jalloh, who is seemingly worried about the situation.
She raised concerns for marine life, including turtles that breed in the area and other spices.
Madam Jalloh called for collaborative efforts to fight this environmental calamity and praised RSLAF personnel for persistently cleaning the beach to reduce heaps of sea weeds scaring away visitors.
The National Tourist Board has also told AWOKO that clearing the beach is a herculean task, and hotel guests were complaining about the smell, and the lack of access to the beach which is the main cause of their stay.
Fisherman, Mohamed Sesay, is the team leader of ten other youths with a wooden carved boat and 18,000 meters of fishing net, with a 40 horse power out board engine hanging on the buttocks of the boat.
He said the magnitude of the weeds is alarming and worrisome, “when we go to drop our chain at sea, we find the weed floating all over the fishing areas”.
He also complained that the sea weed also entangles the propeller of their out board engine as a result they consume a lot of fuel to voyage long distances.
Sesay dressed in rags said, “We are presently out of business with a 40 per cent drop on fish catch, and we have also not ventured out to sea for days as our nets are clogged up”, beating his chest and pointing fingers as he explained.
According to Sesay, the government has not done much to mitigate the dangers the sea weed is posing and casing to the environment and the marine.
Several businesses have been severely affected by the sea weed, and little is being done by state actors to address the issue, says a hotel owner along Lumley Beach who has temporarily closed business.
However, the Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography at the University of Sierra Leone and the Wetlands International Africa scientists from Senegal have visited majority of the affected areas for laboratory test samples.
This reporter spent days with the team under difficult conditions to get proves for the cause and source of the sea weed which still remains a misery for the past two months.
A comprehensive report is expected from Wetlands in Senegal by September 18 this year, but our investigation continues.
By Saidu Bah