The Acting Director of Fisheries and Marine Resources , Alpha Bangura has strongly reacted to a number of claims made by the Doha based International News Medium, Aljazeera, relating to the operations of his ministry. Responding to questions posed by a Reporter of that medium during an on line interview, M r. Bangura described the allegation that “Not a single South Korean trawler is transshipping its catch in Sierra Leone and that of Government is unable to verify the quantity of catch exported” as false and misleading, saying that in addition to others, the Joint Maritime Committee, JMC, constitutes a unique initiative of the Government of Sierra Leone in bringing together all relevant stakeholders in the Maritime domain with a view to curtailing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and other nefarious activities in the country’s waters.
He said all transshipments are required to take place in Sierra Leone in areas specially designated by Government in accordance with the law. He also dismissed as false the assertion that the Directorate of Fisheries has not taken any actions against Some South Korean Fishing Vessels for violating fisheries laws as false as all vessels operators are required to abide by the rule, failing which they face the full penalty of the law. On the allegation of ordering the release and granting of license to trawlers operated by the Sierra Fisheries Company retrospectively after committing a number of offences as incorrect, pointing out that at a meeting of key stakeholders, it was agreed that for a limited period, fishing would be allowed while an agreement on the implementation of the new rate was being finalized. He said the alleged incident has been raised by the maritime wing and the matter was also looked into by a competent authority which found no evidence of willful wrong doing on the part of the ministry. The Fisheries Director considered as very serious, violation of the country’s fisheries regulations by the Kum Myeoung , a foreign vessel which reportedly fled to Guinea after allegedly found illegally fishing in the country’s Inshore Exclusive Zone (IEZ). As regards the Five Star , the Ocean 111 and the Kum Myeoung vessels filmed fishing illegally, Mr. Bangura thanked Aljazeera for helping the ministry in tackling the illegal fishing menace and disclosed that his ministry’s investigation has resulted in fines being levied on the defaulters. The fines, he said amounted to US $ 90,000 in addition to other charges and had since been paid to Government’s Consolidated Fund. Responding to questions on the activities of one Joseph Tua Kamara who reportedly professed to be an Enumerator, working for the Ministry in the Sherbro Island and allegedly collected money from the crew of KUM Myeoung and Five Star fishing vessels as compensation for the destruction caused to nets of local of fishermen, he said the said Enumerator has no direct relation with his ministry and that he was not entitled to negotiate any payments on behalf of his ministry. He promised to examine the claim and take necessary steps to clarify the issue raised by the news medium. Asked what action his ministry will take against operators of trawlers who frequently turnoff their electronic Vessel Monitoring System to escape detention, Mr. Bangura acknowledged the challenges facing the system, noting steps taking by the Joint Monitoring Committee to address the issue in accordance with the law. The Ministry, he said has since required the vessel to report to port of further investigations and if found guilty, necessary action will be taken against the owner. On “why trawlers, captain and companies known to have broken the law not blacklisted”, Mr. Bangura cited section 175 of the Draft Fisheries Act which emphasizes that compliance of operators and severe reprimands for offenders in line with national and international best practices which may include blacklisting of reported offenders. The Fisheries Director also considered the payment of salaries of fisheries observers’ onboard foreign trawlers by foreign fishing companies as untenable, adding that the new draft fisheries Act stipulates the establishment of an Observer’s Fund to ensure that their independence is safeguarded. He also considered any threats by offenders to personnel of his ministry as serious, saying that the fisheries Act made sufficient provisions for the protection of staff of his ministry.