Sierra Leone signs fisheries deal with Russia

Sierra Leonean fishermen get ready for a fishing expedition. The West African country has struck a fisheries deal with Russia. KEMO CHAM 

A long anticipated deal to help Sierra Leone exploit its marine resources has been struck with Russia.

The last fisheries agreement between the two countries was struck in 1976. The new one, signed in the Russian capital Moscow, has been in the making since 2010 on the request of former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The deal guarantees training opportunities for Sierra Leoneans in the fisheries sector, as well as exchange of industry-relevant information. Sierra Leone will specifically benefit from aquaculture through Russia's support.

Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister, Alieu Momodu Pat-Sowe, who signed on behalf of Sierra Leone, said the pact forms the technical and legal basis for its implementation by the two countries.

Russia`s Fisheries Minister, Andrey Krayniy, said it would form the basis for strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries.

Sierra Leone`s fisheries sector represents about 10 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product, according to official figures, and it employs over 500,000 people.

Eighty per cent of its population depends on fish as their primary source of protein.

The civil war saw the country`s fish stock increased greatly because there was little fishing going on. But at the end of the unrest, an influx of illegal fishing boats has ensured depriving the country of millions of dollars.

Loses millions

With an annual earning of about $3 million, Fisheries ministry officials say the country loses over $30 million within the same period to illegal fishing.

This illegal catch ends up on European dining tables, yet the government`s efforts to export to Europe has been met with obstacles on the basis of stringent EU standards. The country has been working to meet a 10-point criteria to fulfil these requirements.

Proper training on handling highly-priced fish like lobsters will fetch a lot of money for Sierra Leone from the European markets.

The Russian agreement seeks to harness much needed foreign capital and know-how in this direction.

Sierra Leone will benefit from training in "preservation, efficient utilisation and management of living marine resources within the exclusive economic zone of Sierra Leone,” the government statement said.

"The agreement requires concerted effort in the field of education and training of personnel for the fishing industry, exchange of experts to sharing their experiences and the development of joint project for fishing processing and the sale of fishing products," it added.

The agreement will also boost the government`s plan of diversifying its economy in the face of repeated disappointment in the mining sector.

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