Welcoming the delegation which also comprised of the Director of the Division of Distant Water Fishing ,the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, on behalf he the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and People of Sierra Leone, expressed sincere appreciation for the visit and hoped it will further strengthen the existing cordial bi-lateral relationship between the two countries. Madam Mans recalled her meeting in December last year with the China’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture in charge of Fisheries where the latter informed her that due to challenges met in regulating the operations of the Chinese Distant Water Fishing Operations, the Chinese Government was putting in place a new framework which will be considered as benchmarks when giving approvals to potential fishing investors, including a strong and comprehensive capacity , readiness to abide by the laws and regulations and follow best practices at national and international levels as well as the assurance that host countries have official cooperation with China in Fisheries through which huge investments will be guaranteed by the government. She hoped that these principles will be considered in the proposed Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by her ministry and the ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of China, noting that the country is currently transforming its fishing industry wherein Sierra Leonean –owned fishing companies and onshore facilities will be empowered and given due considerations in line with the aforementioned principles. Although Government is prepared to create an enabling environment and mindful about Chinese operators’ interventions and contribution to the economic development of the country, she admonished the Chinese authorities to put measures in place to ensure that operators violating the laws of the country are checked.
She reminded her audience about the European Union’s decision to identify Sierra Leone with Yellow Card in terms of illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, adding that, part of the actions to remove the flag is to reduce the fishing efforts of fishing operators which they wish will not affect Chinese Fishing Fleets and investments. Given the enormous challenges posed by industrial fishing, including illegal, Unreported and unregulated fishing, the minister appealed for support for the construction of a Fish Harbour Complex to enable the transfer of industrial fishing activities from offshore to onshore, building of Processing Establishments, development of Mariculture, strengthening of Fisheries Monitoring, Control and Surveillance capacity as well as inland fishing activities such as Aquaculture among others.
As a precautionary approach, she disclosed that her ministry has suspended the licensing of new fishing vessels until an independent stock assessment is done. She hoped that with the on-going cordial relationship between the two countries, other needs of the ministry such as resources for the conduct of a comprehensive stock survey will be addressed and looked forward to the signing of the M.O.U. soonest.
Responding, the Director-General of the Bureau of Fisheries in China, Zhang Xiang Liang said they were in the country to finalise agreement reached by Sierra Leone’s Minister of Fisheries and China’s Minister of Agriculture in December last ahead of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries. While recalling a meeting between the Heads of state of China and Sierra Leone in 2016, Mr. Liang said the dialogue which focused the development of Agriculture and Fisheries Cooperation has brought a lot of opportunities for the two sectors in Sierra Leone, noting that ‘under President Xing Ging Ping’s development agenda, Fisheries has become one of the most important aspects”. He described Sierra Leone and China as “Two old friends” adding that since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1971, their interest in maintaining bilateral relations with Sierra Leone has increased tremendously. He pledged his government’s continued commitment to promoting the socio-economic aspirations of Government and assured all of their desire to help boost the fisheries sector in the country.
The Deputy Minister of Fisheries, Charles Rogers who chaired the programme described it as “a very big moment in the history of the Ministry” and hoped the relationship between the two countries will blossom. The Technical Session which was also attended by senior management staff of the ministry, Industrial Fishing Companies Representatives was chaired by the Director of Fisheries, Mohamed Bushsura Cole.