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WARFP-SL supports consultative meetings on establishment of MPAs

WARFP-SL supports consultative meetings on establishment of MPAs

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, with support from the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (WARFP) has ended a two week long national consultative meeting with stakeholders on the need for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas. The consultative meetings started in the Bonthe Island on the 27th September and continued in Shenge on the 4th of October and the Sierra Leone River Estuary River on the 6th October 2011.   (Photo: Stakeholders in Shenge having a focus group discussion)

The consultative meetings are all aimed at getting stakeholders input on the need for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas, which is in line with WARFP-SL’s efforts of strengthening Sierra Leone’s capacity for the effective management of its fisheries. The establishment of Marine Protected Areas is in line with the governance component of the program. The consultative meetings are also geared towards soliciting the support of stakeholders in the fisheries sector to address the challenging issues that are facing the sector, including illegal fishing, through the concept of co-management.

The WARF program has three interrelated components namely; (A) Good governance and sustainable management of the fisheries; (B) Reduction of Illegal Fishing and (C) ensuring an Increase Local Value Addition to fish products. The project seeks a 50% reduction of fishing vessels that are observed fishing within the 6-mile Inshore Exclusion Zone by the end of the project life cycle.

Speaking in Tuesday, 4th October to fish stakeholders in Shenge in the Kagboro chiefdom, Moyamba district on behalf of the Permanent Secretary, Patrick Sundufu, Senior Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries said, there is need to protect the country’s marine resources “so that we can have more stock…” and that there was the need for all stakeholders to sit and discuss what is expected from all and sundry. He also spoke that Yawri Bay, (Western Area and Moyamba District) which has been identified as one of the MPAs, is one of the priority areas of government for the management of the sector through the establishment of the Marine Protected Areas.  The consultative meetings, Sundufu said, will look at ways of also adding value to the country’s fisheries sector .He reiterated that Sierra Leone’s fish  product has never been banned from been exported to the EU market but that we only need to put some structures in place to enable us export our fish product.

The WARFP-SL’s Governance Focal Person from the Ministry of Fisheries, Sheku Sie in his statement emphasised that as a Ministry, they want to see how the country’s fisheries sector could contribute to the country’s development and how it could benefit the country. He referred to MPAs as “fish bank’ that can help people benefit from the marine resource and also discouraged people from using bad methods of fishing Paramount Chief Doris Lenga Koroma of Kagboro chiefdom in the Moyamba District, whilst welcoming participants said the huge turnout of people at the consultative meeting is an indication that “people want to learn more and gain more knowledge on fisheries related matters…”

Presentations were made on a range of thematic issues, ranging from the present status of fisheries resources in Sierra Leone; objectives of the Yawri Bay Marine Protected Area, to the processes involved in the establishment of MPAs. On the processes involved in the establishment of MPAs, Winston Gbondo, a Community Development Specialist for WARFP-SL stated that there are stages involved and they include the preparatory stage; pilot phase, expansion stage and lastly the declaration stage. He said, stakeholder’s consultation is also one of several channels, needed in the establishment of Marine Protected Areas. On status of the fisheries resources at present in Sierra Leone, Lahai Sesay Fisheries Officer in the Ministry explained that there has been a decline in harvest of fisheries due to overexploitation.

A similar consultative meeting was also held on the 6th of October at Targrin (Lungi) for fisheries stakeholders in the Sierra Leone River Estuary, which has also been identified as one of the MPAs. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries, Amed Kemokai expressed pleasure to be in Lungi to talk to people on fisheries matters and spoke that as a government they are committed to protect the fisheries sector. He also spoke of plans to get fishing nets for fishing communities that would be sold at a cost recovery cost and funds to be used for development of fishing communities. The Ministry, he said, shall be moving from place to place to learn from you and see how we could improve on our sector.

Also making a presentation in Lungi was Victor Kargbo from   the fisheries ministry. He spoke on the importance of the said Fishing sector, which he said employs about 100,000 persons directly, and indirectly supports 500,000 and that it is the cheapest source of protein for majority of Sierra Leoneans and also contribute about 10% to the national GDP.

On status of the Sierra Leone fisheries resource, Kargbo said there has been an overexploitation of the resource, saying, there has been full exploitation of Sardinella Aurita, Sardinella Maderensis. Pollock- Decapterus Spp (D. rhonchus and D. Punctatus), he said is moderately exploited  and Horse mackerel (Trachurus tracae)   fully exploited  with Bonga (Ethmalosa fimbriata) – FULLY exploited

At the end of the various meetings, community people suggested ways of improving on the management of the fisheries sector, including the need to enact bylaws that should be enforced by stakeholders.

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