Illegal Trawler at KentIllegal TrawlerThe President made his own commitment

The President made it a priority for this year in his anniversary speech, the Deputy Minster of Marine Resources received a standing ovation in Morocco for saying Sierra Leone was at the forefront of fighting the evil, Salone is a leading proponent of the Costal Zone Management of West Africa, stopping illegal trawlers is supposed to be at the very heart of this government’s policies. So how come there were no less than three illegal trawlers within Kent Beachhalf a mile of Kent beach all last Tuesday night(03 03 09)? More importantly how come the navy, that regularly visit the trawlers, was seen that night to visit all three ships and leave with bags of fish (and money?) and just allowed this illegal stealing to continue?

Three illegal trawlers in one night at Kent beach

The people of Kent are really distressed. Last night there were no less than three illegal trawlers plying up and down the water right inside the little bay. None of the local fishermen could go fishing because they were scared that they would be killed by the trawlers. The people of Kent say this is not the first time the navy went on board the trawlers, came away with bags of fish (who knows what else?) and did nothing to stop the illegal fishing.

This is a security matter, food security.

The trawlers are fishing right up to the beachside. They are stealing brazenly not only from the people of Kent but also from every Sierra Leonean. They are damaging the food security and future of fish stocks in the country. How will the children ever be able to fish if the fish breading grounds are wrecked? How will we feed ourselves when the fish are gone, when
80% of the animal protein we eat in Sierra Leone comes from our sea?
The trawlers steal over $8,000.00 (eight thousand USD) per shift from the country. The navy has the power to seize these vessels and keep them docked until they pay a hefty fine. As recently as October 2008, the Sierra Leone navy, working together with a UK NGO, the Environmental Justice Foundation, arrested an illegal trawler off Sherbro Island and brought it back to Freetown. The trawler was fined and had to pay the Sierra Leonean government a $30,000 fine.

Just imagine what revenue could be brought to government coffers if the navy was enforcing the international laws of the seas and this at the same time as allowing the local fishermen to fish and feed and support their families.

The navy must enforce maritime law for the benefit of the country

International maritime law is clear about the criminality of illegal trawlers. Even if the trawlers do have legal licenses it is always illegal for them to fish close to shore in the Inshore Exclusion Zone reserved for local fishermen. It is up to the navy to enforce the law. Please do not say it cannot be done because the navy has already proved that it can act when it wants to do so. Anything short of arresting the trawlers pillaging the seas must amount to some unscrupulous, corrupt navy personnel. They, as much as the trawlers, are damaging the food security of the country because by their actions they are helping the trawlers to steal the fish from the seas of Salone.
A call for the highest intervention. Mr President, new Minister for Marine Resources, Madam Afsatu Kabbah and Deputy, former acting, Minister, Madam Rosaline Oya Sankoh please intervene now.

Mr President, new Minister for Marine Resources, Madam Afsatu Kabbah and Deputy, former acting, Minister Madam Rosaline Oya Sankoh please intervene now. Please ensure the navy personnel will do their duty and arrest the illegal trawlers. Please investigate why last Wednesday 03. 03. 09 some navy personnel boarded three vessels clearly fishing within Mama Salone’s waters and left them again to carry on the theft of her seas.

Jane Aspden