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.

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The National Plan of Action (NPOA-Shark), 2005 - 2012

Introduction

It has been recorded that shark fishery was introduced to Sierra Leone in 1974 and was largely dominated by fishermen from other countries in the sub-region. These were mainly Ghanaians, Senegalese, Guinea-Bissau fishermen, Guinea-Conakry and Togolese.

Background of the Project

In Sierra Leone, the 1994 Fishery Management and Development Act (and the then newly enacted fishery policy, 2003) broadly provides the legal basis for the sustainable development of the fisheries. By that time there was no specific regulation enacted for the management of the shark fisheries. Considering the lucrative nature of the fisheries, it was of vital importance that an action plan for the management of the fishery be developed that would fit in within the global action plan for sharks conservation and utilization (FAO, 1999; FAO, 2000). This has been adequately achieved to some extent though there are more to be done to match up with global trends and development.

The rapid expansion of the industrial fishing vessels in the fishery, especially the Soviet purse-seiners and long liners meant that an increasing number of sharks and rays were taken as by-catch. This served to fuel the trade in shark fins, creating intense rivalry between the foreign and local crew members as a result of share allocations.

About the same period, long distance trade to countries in the sub-region, as far as Ghana and Mali, developed through a net work of wholesalers who frequented the major landing sites in Sierra Leone. In the beginning, the epicentre of this trade was concentrated in Bonthe District and Shenge and Plantain Island in the Moyamber District.

Sharks were also taken as by-catch in trawl net, with small-meshed cod ends. By the early 1990s, foreign middlemen extended their shark trade into the artisanal fisheries sector, capturing the increase level of sharks and rays in specialized gillnets. The fishing nets were mainly bottom driftnets and seines with a mesh size in excess of 200mm.

The benefits flows from these activities continue to be bias against the Sierra Leonean fisher-folks in favour of the increasingly powerful middlemen and financiers. It would appear that the increasing levels of exploitation of this fishery resource have placed pressure on sharks and the targeting of the immature/a juvenile which poses a growing threat against the sustainability of the fishery.

Development of NPOA Sharks - Sierra Leone and cabinet adoption

Various interviews with artisanal fishermen suggest gradual decline in landings of the shark species. The biological characteristics of these species as a general rule for the chondrichthyans have life histories characterized by low fecundity, large precocious young, slow growth, late maturity, long life, and high survival of all age classes. This is an example of 'k-selected species'. These life history characteristics have serious implications for the chondrichthyan populations, as they limit the capacity of populations from over-fishing or negative impacts. The implications of the K-selected strategy would imply that the species cannot sustain high fishing intensity for a considerable time period and would in the extreme stand the danger of extinction under uncontrolled fishing regime. Regular monitoring programme targeting stock situation, population parameters, price and marketing etc must be conducted if we are to be able to set up a management plan for this fishery. In view of the complex nature of the fishery and the economic attractiveness, it was imperative that indications for monitoring future direction, development and evolution be identified. This situation warranted the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to institute a consolidated study on the dynamics of the sharks and ray species in the Sierra Leone Territorial Waters.

The results of these consolidated study on sharks and rays in Sierra Leone led to the formulation of the National Plan of Action (NPOA-SL) for the conservation and management of Sharks, as contained in a Memorandum CP (2008) of 12th March, 2008 and its subsequent adoption. This plan was presented by the then Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Hon. Dr. Moses M. Kapu, to a meeting of Cabinet Ministers and chaired by H.E. the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, president of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
Following this event, strategies were developed and implemented for the sustainable shark fishery to be incorporated into the national fisheries regulations which include:

  1. Conduction of sensitization workshops on management of sharks
  2. Development of legislation and regulations for management of sharks
  3. Conduction of stake holders' workshop on the development of regulations for the rational exploitation of sharks and rays
  4. Got parliamentary approval and enacted into law.

With regard to the above the following has been achieved:-

All export of shark meat and fins are required to obtained authorization from the ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. The following inclusions have also been made with regards to Draft Fisheries Regulations:

  1. Mesh size regulations for shark fisheries – minimum of 200mm
  2. By-catch regulations – all juvenile sharks to be returned when incidentally caught.
  3. Nobody shall land sharks without fins
  4. Shark fisheries not allowed in proposed MPA's
  5. The draft regulations consistent with international instruments and agreements including IUCN for endangered shark species.
  6. Reclassified shark fisheries under semi-industrial fisheries

Secondly, more awareness has been raised in the fishing communities of the importance of these valuable and indispensable aquatic species. The effect of this is that the shark fishers and other stake holders in the sector are beginning to re-direct their attention to alternative livelihoods as revealed during field visits and meeting in the coastal towns and villages.

Following the analysis of data collected from the above sources on all fisheries, including sharks and rays, the Ministry has declared four marine protected areas for conservation reasons and sustainable fisheries. The ultimate specific aims of declaring these areas as such is to protect fish stocks, including vulnerable shark and ray species, and help rebuild depleted fish stocks. However, this project ended in 2012 with so much achievement. The Ministry has revisited the National Plan of Action and the project is expected to kick-off very soon.

The Programme is managed by a national focal point and assisted by core of enumerators in 5 strategic artisanal fish landing sites along the coast of Sierra Leone under the auspices of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

 

Written By: National Focal Point, NPOA-SHARKS
Lahai D. Seisay