The 65 participants, who were drawn from coastal and riverine communities nationwide, solidly resolved to stop all bad fishing methods for which Bonthe District was commended for taking the lead with its fishermen voluntarily surrendering over 5,000 yards of banned nets but appealed to government and donors to provide fishing gears at cost recovery cost.
Among the recommendations, participants proffered that fishermen wishing to fish in communities other than where they reside must apply to the local authorities where they want to fish and their boats and fishing gears inspected, pay a fee before they are allowed to fish, appealed to FAO to organize a meeting between Local Councils and CMAs to harmonize the byelaws, that the use of manifest must be mandatory for fishing boats, that Master Fishermen, Harbor Masters and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) must see themselves as one entity championing the same course and that CMAs need to be restructured and their mandate reviewed.
Participants also unanimously called for an annual conference of CMAs to discuss challenges, successes and the way forward, setting up of a monitoring tool for CMAs, setting up of a National Artisanal and Industrial Resolution Committee of various stakeholders to address the issue of damaged nets by foreign trawlers, formation of a Territorial Safety Volunteers as well as a Committee, that artisanal fishermen should register their boats and nets, that CMAs must inspect the nets of foreign trawlers, that the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGTT) policy must be domesticated and that government should provide security for CMAs in the discharge of their duties.
They also appealed for micro-finance to be provided to CMAs, support to mechanized farming in inland swamp areas like Pujehun District as an alternative source of livelihood, that CMAs should be capacitated with boats and engines to enforce the law, that stakeholders must support aquaculture to reduce dependency on the natural source, provision of cold rooms, definition of the role of the Harbor Master, ban the importation and sale of outlawed fishing gears, establish an Independent Observer Agency, that the media should incessantly disseminate good fishing practices and that participants must read and implement the fisheries laws.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Deputy FAO Representative and head of programs, Mr. Joseph Brima revealed that FAO has invested a lot of resources, both financial and human, in the preparation of the CMA document.
Dr. Sallieu Sankoh, the consultant recalled that the CMAs were setup under the World Bank project years ago but have challenges, the reason for the fact finding mission in communities along the coastal areas to among others find out the functionality of the CMAs, challenges and successes that would be incorporated into the Fisheries Policy.
He continued that some CMAs have done a good job, that CMAs were established in 2011-2012 by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources initially in eight coastal districts that has increased to 37 now- 9 in Bonthe, 6 in Pujehun, 14 in Kambia, 5 in Moyamba, 5 in the Western Area Rural and 4 in the Western Area Urban adding that a cluster comprises 4-5 villages and appealed to participants to make salient contributions to add value to the document.
According to the consultant, CMAs have been successful in many parts of the world as it is a participatory management system, that it is communities that should manage and protect their own resources, went on to state that all the 37 CMAs in the country developed byelaws that were endorsed by the local authorities and that enforcement has commenced but that the Territorial Use Right Fisheries (TURFs) have not been achieved adding that some CMAs performed well while others did not.
On the methodology used to prepare the report, he said they visited Shenge, the Sherbro River Estuary, Bonthe, Tombo, Bendu, Yeliboya, Pepel among others and talked to stakeholders, made observations, conducted interviews with key experts, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), held focus group discussions and informed that most of the local fish catch is now exported and that not all the coastal areas, like Sulima in the Pujehn District, were covered in the report.
He went on to state that all 37 CMAs have constitutions, have renewed their registrations with the local and central governments and now operating as Community Based Organizations, hold regular monthly meetings except during the Ebola outbreak, that most CMAs have bank accounts and that all Paramount Chiefs are in full support of them but opined that some Paramount Chiefs are far away from their coastal communities, that there is lack of collaboration between Local Councils and Paramount Chiefs as to who has the legal mandate to collect fees for boat licenses.
He continued that CMAs lack sustainable sources of income to discharge their responsibilities, that some of their responsibilities overlap with other structures like Ward Committees and Chiefdom Development Committees, that the Local Council and Rural Development Act is not clear on the issue and underscored that sensitization of fishermen on best fishing practices has not kept pace with the growth of the fishing population in the country.
He said CMAs have challenges to enforce local level legislations determining who should fish and who should not in certain areas, how CMAs should mobilize resources, effective collaboration with governance structures and arrangements to enable them deliver on their vital roles in the management of coastal resources as well as alternative sources of livelihood for coastal communities and underlined the need for CMAs to be depoliticized.
Dr. Samuel Mabekki of the FAO disclosed that Sierra Leone committed to the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) National Land Policy with implementation starting in February 2014 but clarified that VGGT is not binding but voluntary and that the VGGT is the framework of Sierra Leone’s land policy in the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment.
He articulated that VGGT also deals with forestry and fisheries, that some of the benefits of the VGGT are food security, social stability, sustainable development and that the lives of the marginalized and poor would improve stressing that VGGT prevents land conflicts from escalating and encouraged participants to read the books on VGTT as knowledge is power emphasizing that the policy is one of the strongest for sustainable fisheries management affirming that forestry, fisheries and land are all inter-related.
The Deputy Director of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Mr. Josephus Mamie expressed delight for participants’ frank discussions to validate the report, that the Ministry is now engaging fishermen more frequently than before informing that CMAs would be streamlined into government activities, encouraged fishing organizations to write and present project proposals and open bank accounts ahead of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project Phase II all in an effort to move the sector forward but underscored that they must do the right things.
Mr. Josephus Mamie went on to observe that some motorized boats fish in the Marine Protected Area, that illegal fishing and cutting down of mangroves, the breeding ground for fish, must stop in addition to planting mangroves, keep the beaches clean and entreated participants to study the report and make recommendations to the FAO for support for its implementation.
The highly interactive forum was facilitated by Mrs. Josephine Kamara and Mrs. Martha Davies while the question and answer session and presentation of the recommendations climaxed the event.