Sierra Leone News: Illegal fishing a problem for RSLAF maritime wing

Posted By Stop Illegal Fishing:11th Sep, 2017: Impacts of Illegal Fishing

Over $2.3 billion USD, annually, is lost to Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing along the coasts of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Mauritania, and Senegal. Only $13.8 million USD was recovered through monitoring, control and surveillance along the West African waters, says a report on illegal fishing in West Africa by Frontiers in Marine Science. Recent analysis indicates that tackling illegal fishing in the region may result in regaining 300,000 jobs.

Joint Force Commander, Major General Brima Sesay, said there is an urgent need to equip the maritime wing of the RSLAF to enable them to generate revenue.

“With the assets that we have we can only patrol our inshore exclusive zone. We cannot venture into the exclusive economic zone, which is about 200 nautical miles plus. We don’t have the platform to go there,” he said.

The Major General said they now have the system where they can view all of the activities going on in our waters. “We see the different vessels out there but we do not have the means to go out there.”

Major General Sesay emphasized that most of the fishing off the shores of Sierra Leone is illegal, unregulated and unreported. “So even with the limited assets we have the maritime wing is still effecting arrests, which are then handed over to the Joint Maritime Committee,” he said.

He said that fines are being paid in some instances, and they were expecting the committee to come back to them with some percentage. “That has never happened. We use our resources, they don’t resource our operations and to run a boat on water is very expensive in terms of fuel, maintenance and the personnel out there.”

However, he noted that if they get the right platform, like a fix-wing aircraft that will be going round to see the vessels. It will help generate more revenue for the government, “so many vessels come here and take our valuable products for almost free.”

He went on to say that they have an air wing because they cannot call it an air force. “We have nothing that can leave the ground. We have beautiful plans for the air wing if we get the necessary support. I mentioned that if the air wing is equipped they can go and surveillance and tell were certain boats are before the navy goes there and does the physical arrest.”

In the military, he said, when you talk about air wing you should have six aircrafts minimum. “When you talk about air force you should have airbase and minimum of 12 fighter jets, here even the minimum for wing we don’t have. We have pilots and engineers, and since they left training school they have not flown any aircraft.”

This study also finds that IUU fishing poses a serious threat to populations dependent on fish stocks and to the very safety of artisanal fishers. Among the most common infractions are incursions by trawlers into the zones reserved for artisanal fishers and these tend to occur at night, regularly causing fishers to lose their fishing gear and canoes, and has even resulted in the loss of life.

Source: Awoko

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