A combined team from the World Bank, United States Embassy in Sierra Leone and the European Union on Thursday 13th April visited the Joint Operations Center (JOC) of the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration (SLMA) at Murray Town in west end Freetown.
By Kadie Sesay
The purpose of the combined team was to obtain first-hand information on SLMA’s operations and to call for more robust and aggressive action against illegal fishing and other crimes at sea.
The first-hand information was followed up on recent upgrades of JOC funded by the US Government including the installation of coastal radar, ship transponder identification system and technological upgrades of computers.
The upgrades, according to JOC Management, has given them a much-improved ability to combat the many illegal activities taking place off shore including piracy, smuggling, trafficking and illegal fishing.
According to the US Ambassador, John Hoover, Sierra Leone waters are being severely exploited by unscrupulous people who do not mean well for the country.
With the radar system and other upgrades at the JOC, the US Ambassador called on the management to robustly and aggressively protect the country’s maritime space by detecting, interdicting and fining illegal vessels in Sierra Leone waters.
The World Bank Country Director, Parminder Brar pledged the Bank’s continuous commitment to the Government of Sierra Leone through the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (WARFP).
“West Africa Fishing grounds are some of the richest fishing grounds in the world,” said Parminder Brar averred, noting that the Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing still remains the major challenge caused by weak regional coordination, poor compliance, inadequate monitoring and lack of transparency.
Head of EU Delegation, Inga Kirastina said fighting illegal activities at sea especially IUU Fishing was critical for Sierra Lone particularly in terms of ensuring food security for the country.
She stressed that the citizens depend more or less on fish for protein but observed that the IUU fishing is depriving the country of fish.
Inga Kirastina said they were working with the Sierra Leone authorities and other development partners to fight IUU an individual or group.