The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Emma Kowa Jalloh, has in a consultative meeting with key Stakeholders in the sector, declared 1st – 31st April 2022 as date for the implementation of this year’s Closed Season.
Addressing participants which included members of the Artisanal Fishermen Consortium, Civil Society Organizations, Media and Sierra Leone Boats Owners Association at her Ministry’s conference hall, Youyi Building, Freetown on Friday, 25th, March, 2022, Madam Kowa Jalloh, welcomed the participants and thanked them for responding promptly to their invitation
The purpose of the meeting, she said was to engage stakeholders and elicit their views and contributions to ensure a successful implementation of the process. She described the Closed Season as “a management measure”, aimed at reducing fishing pressure, rebuild fish stocks and prevent over fishing which she said, leads to depletion of fish stock
During this period, the Minister ordered that all Industrial and Decked Semi- Industrial Fishing Vessels should stop fishing and be at Port on or before 23:59 GMT on 31st March, 2022; Vessel Monitoring Systems must be on during this period, adding that before the start of the Closed Season; all fishing companies are to stock their cold rooms with various types of fish species and quantity, proportionate to the number of fishing vessels they operate.
The Minister also slammed a ban on export of fish via Land, Sea and Air, by all operators of fishing vessels, fish processing establishments, artisanal fishermen and the general public during the Closed Season.
She urged the Artisanal Fishermen Consortium to ensure that all fish caught by their compatriots are sold to the local market and appealed to Industrial Fishing Companies to stock their Cold Rooms with enough fish and ensure Sales Agents distribute their products evenly and at affordable prices.
She disclosed plans by her Ministry to engage in robust monitoring of the marine in collaboration with partners to ensure strict compliance during the period. The Minister also used the occasion to admonish fisherfolks to renounce bad fishing methods, stop fishing in Marine Protected Areas as well as smuggling of Fisheries and Marine Resources, especially Juvenile fish to other countries and appealed to for support to ensure the process is successfully implemented.
The Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Ibrahim Turay, described Fisheries and Marine Resource as a “Common Heritage” that everyone should endeavour to protect and manage rationally and sustainably.
He advised stakeholders in the sector to be mindful of the manner in which they exploit their God-giving resources to avoid scarcity and depletion of the stock. He lamented the influx of unscrupulous foreign vessels fishing during the Closed Season and encourage all to help police the country’s territorial waters during the season for the benefit of present and future generation.
Acting Director of Fisheries, Josephus Mamie, acknowledged concerns, suggestions and recommendations made by participants and reminded them about the existing legal instruments governing the sector. He challenged stakeholders, especially fishers to compliment the efforts government in enforcing them.
Head of Marine Artisanal Unit in the Ministry of Fisheries, Victor Hamusa Kargbo who chaired the meeting, described the participants as “Change Agents” and called on them to contribute meaningfully to the implementation of the process. He reminded them about the current status of the country’s fisheries as a result of the ongoing unsustainable fishing methods, adding that those who are directly or indirectly involved in fishing activities will stand to lose more than others in the event of a crisis in the industry.
In his statement, the National Master Fisherman, Salifu Kamara, on behalf of his compatriots, pledged their support to ensure the measure is successfully implemented. Whilst naming a number fishing communities, notorious for illegal fishing, he highlighted challenges facing them while enforcing fisheries rules and regulations and called for more support and an extension of the closed Season period.
Chairman Fishermen Consortium, Alpha Koroma, emphasized the importance of the Closed Season measure and registered his organization’s unwavering support to promote the initiative.
Mr. Koroma highlighted a number control measures they have put in place to compliment the Ministry’s effort and warned players in the sector against aiding and abetting lawless and unscrupulous individuals whilst urging Harbour Masters to be vigilant to ensure this year’s Closed Season measure is fully implemented.
A representative of Civil Society Organizations in Sierra Leone, Sao Lamin, while underscoring the importance of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, described it as “key” in promoting government’s Food Self Sufficiency Initiative. On behalf of his colleagues, he pledged their continued commitment to holding governments accountable for their stewardship and desire to proffer meaningful recommendations that would promote national cohesion and development.
He entreated all to be patriotic and refrain from politicizing issues of national importance unnecessarily. He stressed the need to involve community leaders in the planning, implementation and evaluation of development programmes.
Among recommendations, suggestions and concerns raised at the one- day interactive meeting were, the need for stakeholders to fully participate and contribute meaningfully to the successful implementation of the process; involve community leaders, such as Paramount Chiefs, Tribal Heads, Councilors in the Ministry’s programmes; enforce rules and regulations governing the sector to ensure compliance; incorporate other fishing communities, especially those in non-coastal regions; continued empowerment of partners working alongside the Ministry, such as the Fishermen Consortium, Community Management Associations; encourage Sierra Leone Boat Owners Association (SLBOA) to help in fight against smuggling of fisheries and other products; extend the Closed Season period; identify areas notorious for illegal fishing and mount robust monitoring and surveillance of these areas as well as Fishing Companies and Processing Establishments; intensify campaign against smuggling of Fisheries and Marine products; stop all foreign fishers from fishing during the Closed Season and review the process of licensing Local Exporters of Fisheries and Marine products with a view to empowering and encouraging them to invest more.
Signed-------------- Max A. Konneh Press Officer, MFMR