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Sierra Leone News: Execution of fisheries policy maybe troubled by limited resources

According to the recently launched National AGOA Response Strategy, the new Fisheries Policy which seeks to address all the key issues related to fishing and fishery, its implementation it says risks being hampered by limited resources.  The associated strategy the document state makes a good attempt to narrow the focus, establish priorities, and identify next steps. One of the key recommendations relating to institutional responsibility is the creation of a National Fisheries Forum that will bring together the public and private sector together with other stakeholders.  This will be critical for defining and monitoring the implementation of the new policy and strategy. The Strategy also discusses compliance with standards, which it says is an important aspect of fishery exports due to the highly perishable nature of the product. Exports to the European Union countries have not materialised because of failure to meet their stringent standards.  An important step is the enactment of Food Safety Act in late 2017 with the primary objective to regulate food safety activities within Sierra Leone. The policy issues pertaining to dried and smoked fish are broadly the same as those for the fishing sector in general. The policy framework has recently improved with the adoption of a new fisheries policy and an associated strategy document in 2016.  They also identified some policy challenges key among them is the control of fishing effort, as it is evident that there is illegal fishing by foreign trawlers that then trans-ship or export directly to Asia.  This is the most pressing problem because of the high risk of over-fishing in the coastal waters. It involves government action to prevent over-fishing, and the application of measures for a sustainable fishing industry.  This requires policies and actions to regulate and control illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and supervision of legal fishing. The number of licensed fishermen and their aggregate fishing capacity must be consistent with the allowable annual catch. This applies to both the industrial fleet and the smaller artisanal boats. But controlling the fishing fleet is a challenge everywhere and nowhere more so than in a country with the limited financial resources like Sierra Leone. The estimated loss from IUU is about US$30 million per year. Several projects are underway to tackle this problem, including the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program. Illegal trawlers have been kept out of the inner six-mile zone, with the help of a fast fisheries patrol boat. Management of the sector is receiving greater attention, and more responsibility is shifting to the local level, with surveillance being decentralized to four marine-protected areas and 31community management associations. These associations have now been given the authority to limit the number of licenses issued within their areas, and to monitor fishing activity. Though there are still problems, the regional program also facilitates monitoring by promoting cooperation between countries. Much of the legal industrial catch is trans-shipped on the high seas to the final destination without coming to port while 30 percent is required to be landed and sold locally. This is partly explained by the limited capacity of the existing port infrastructure and local processing capacity.

However, every fishing nation aspires to value addition through local processing. It is true that no specialized fishing port exists in Sierra Leone as at the time of preparing this strategy (in 2017/2018), but some fishing companies still manage to land their catch and conduct on-shore operations for export. Increasing exports of dried and smoked fish will eventually require greater supply of the raw material. Otherwise, exports will come at the expense of local consumption. A robust policy – supported by investments – will be needed to raise gradually the share of the catch which is landed. At the same time, plans for on-shore processing and marketing should be designed and implemented as early as possible.

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Monday February 25, 2019.

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