The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Mr. Joe Koroma on 2nd November, 2010 announced the permanent shutting down and banning of Sierra Leone international ships’ registry to foreign-owned fishing and fisheries support vessels in the supreme interest of securing sustainable economic viability in the fisheries sector.
He made this revelation while addressing a two-day conference at the Miatta Conference Hall organized by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource (MFMR) in partnership with the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) with support from the FAO, Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF) programme and the NEPAD partnership for Africa Fisheries (PAF).
He said the meeting sought to raise awareness on the impact and challenges posed by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and to identify how best to achieve effective and sustainable fisheries management regimes in the region. He added that the IUU focus will fall within the context of good fisheries’ governance, institutional reforms, and stakeholders’ engagements, while deploring the numerous contributing factors that lead to IUU fishing such as the use of Flags of Convenience (FOG) that he said represents one of the surest and most common ways IUU operators use to circumvent fisheries management measures and avoid penalties for illegal activities. “Unscrupulous ship-owners have long used Flags of Convenience to evade fishing regulations, tax rules and safety standards,” he intimated, adding that FOC registrations quietly reduce operating costs for vessel owners, and very notoriously quick and cheap to acquire.
Mr. Koroma disclosed that the reasons for government’s decision to de-link from the International Ships Registry in New Orleans have to do with the highly insignificant revenue Sierra Leone gets from SLISR. “For example, the SLISR in New Orleans reported that over a period of five (5) years 90 fishing vessels flying the Sierra Leone Flag fetched a total of US$ 46,243.05 or US$513.0 per Vessel per year. This average at less than US$10,000 per year and when viewed in the context of damages to income, livelihoods, good faith and trust of local Sierra Leone fisherman, this can be considered a negligible sum, totally unequal to the true economic costs to Sierra Leone or the environmental costs of IUU activities to our country.”
The other reason he said was because the SLISR ignores the fact that no matter where a fishing vessel is operating, it is the Flag’s State that has the responsibility for monitoring and controlling its activities- an action that currently not possible for the Government to undertake (particularly for vessels operating on the other side of the world).
He ended by encouraging participants to contribute effectively in the deliberations of the session so as to come up with a formidable stance at the end.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.