By: Anthony Vandy
The effects of the COVID-19 virus pandemic continue to hit every sector of society including fishermen and fishmongers across the various wharfs in the capital city of Freetown.
From Tombo to Funkia and down at King Jimmy wharf the stories of the devastating effect of the virus on business are the same.
Saidu Kamara is the Deputy Harbormaster for the Tambakula wharf, Saidu has over twenty years of experience in fishing. Speaking about the challenges they face as fishermen and fishmongers he noted that the bad weather is a major thing that affects their catch.
He said during the rains, it is very difficult for fishermen to catch sufficient fish since the tides are high during this period and it is risky to go fishing.
With a variety of catch which includes Snapper, Herring, Bonga, and Tilapia, the Tambakula wharf is one of the key centres for people who are into the fish business. This particular wharf hosts over six hundred fishermen and women, according to Kamara.
However, the Deputy Harbor Master noted that during the COVID-19 lockdown period, it was difficult for fishermen to earn their living because of the restrictive measures and the hours given to them by the government to go fishing.
He appealed to authorities responsible for the safekeeping of the sea to be proactive and put measures in place to discourage the dumping of sewage or domestic, agricultural, and industrial waste into the sea, as this affects the fish stock.
Alusine Bangura is a local fisherman at Tombo fishing wharf in an interview he raised concerns about the availability of safety gear, like, life jackets, light, whistle, etc., and the erection of a Harbor.
Amidst this challenge, Bangura expressed appreciation to the government for giving them back the Tombo wharf which is a major source of livelihood for them.
Fatmata Bangura is the current chair lady for the Funkie Wharf. Speaking on behalf of the fishmongers, she said that boat owners during this COVID-19 pandemic are afraid of letting their boats into the sea for fishing especially during the rains because they are afraid of losing their boats to heavy rains, wind, and high tides.
Madam Bangura said that the ban on industrial fishing instituted by the Ministry of Fisheries during this period of COVID-19 has affected them greatly, noting that they are losing millions of Leones.
She revealed that because the wharf hosts thousands of people daily and fishermen and women come to do business there, there is an urgent need for a toilet and wash facilities.
The Mission of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is to plan, develop, rationally manage and conserve all living aquatic resources for the benefit of the country.
To achieve this, the ministry promotes good governance, including co-management practices, establish sustainable monitoring, control, and surveillance procedures, establish the livelihood enhancement of the fishing communities, support commercial fisheries development, increase the contribution of the fish resources to the national economy, adhere to and actively participate in regional and international fisheries management organisation and adopt best practices in the management of the resources, including code of conduct for responsible fisheries.
Emma Kowa-Jalloh is the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources. Speaking about a new harbor, she said that the ministry will separate land grabbing from genuine landowners by the government.
She added that the facility to be constructed is a fish harbor and not a fish mill as portrayed on social media. The objective of the fish harbor is to centralise all fishing activities.
The government of Sierra Leone she says has been yearning for a fish harbor since the early 1970s, but could not actualise it due to the huge amount of money that is required.
The fish harbor according to the minister will provide the facility for Tuna Vessels and other bigger fishing vessels to anchor. It will also increase fish stock in the country whilst simultaneously increasing our capacity for export to the International markets. The Chinese government has already made available a grant of US$55m for the construction of the habour.
“For technical reasons, Black Johnson was the most suitable place for the construction of the facility in terms of bathymetry, social safeguards (minimum resettlement cost), and environmental issues. The minister furthered that the Ministry of Finance had put aside a compensation package of Le 13.76 billion for the affected landowners after the Ministry of Lands had secured the 252 acres space for the Fish Harbor,” Emma Kowa-Jalloh said.
Compensation to landowners’ government has clearly stated would be strictly after the provision of authentic documents for ownership of the land within the space acquired.