By Lansana Fofanah.
The Government of Sierra Leone has made a commitment towards the fight against illegal fishing which continues to cause sub-regional member states millions of United States dollars yearly.
Speaking over the weekend on behalf of His Excellency the President, Julius Maada Bio at the 20th Conference of Ministers of the Sub-Regional Fishing Commission (SRFC) at Bintumani hotel Aberdeen, Freetown the Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh called on member states of the SRFC to renew their efforts to tackle illegal fishing in the region and make the sector more attractive to investors.
Dr. Juldeh Jalloh said that the fishing sector in Sierra Leone contributes 20 percent of the GDP, adding that despite the importance of the marine fisheries in the economic development of the country, the sector is still below expected performance level to trigger the much needed economic development for the nation and that calls for collective proactive measures from member states to curb illegal fishing which has been an impediment for the growth of the sector.
The seven member countries; Sierra Leone, Guinea, The Gambia, Senegal, Cape Verde, Mauritania and Guinea Bissau, had a three days discussion on the challenges in the fishing sector and how they could overcome them together.
“We hope with renewed effort of the SRFC and the concerted action from individual countries coupled with support from donor and technical partners, we should be in a better position to adequately address these issues to enable us build a solid basis for the emergence of a prosperous blue economy. This underscores the importance of this nature of meetings that provide the spaces to discuss Strategic Plans geared towards strengthening the governance of the sector in all its facets including environment aspects as well” V.P Jalloh said
Dr. Jalloh referred to the fishing sector as an opportunity where government can increase revenue as well as an outlet for job creation and they as government are ready to invest resources in strengthening strategic partnership with sister countries and development partners to put fishing governance on a sound footing.
“I want to encourage you to expand that opportunity. We are in this together and we believe together we can shape our common future to build a viable fishing platform in the region”, he added.
Welcoming the guests, the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Fatima Bio called on investors to support the government in improving the fish sector which also provides the cheapest nutrition.
The Cape Verdean incoming Chairman of the conference of Ministers of the SRFC, Mr. Julio Herbert Lopes said that the fisheries sector and maritime economy face new challenges that need common approach to increase their resilience in tackling the issues in the fishing sector. Mr. Lopes emphasizes on the need for good management with a vision and strategy that would create new mechanisms in safeguarding the marine resources. “Considering the changes in our international transaction plan, there is a need to strengthen our synergy and demand requirement”, he said.
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Mrs. Emma Kowa Jalloh said that fishery sector is key under the New Direction developmental programs and that is why the government has put a premium on fisheries, to help develop the country.
the outgoing Chairman of the Conference of Ministers of the SRFC, , Mr. Fredrick Loua, who doubles as the Minister of Fisheries Aquaculture and Maritime Economy of Guinea, thanked FAO, World Bank and other organizations for supporting their fishing sector at a time when the sector was going through unprecedented number of crisis in the past.