By Damon Van Der Linde
Living in a country with a 70 percent youth unemployment rate, fishing along the long Atlantic Coast is one of the few options left for Sierra Leonian youth in terms of work. But pirate fishers and an uninterested government are threatening their livelihood.
Albert Johnson helps unload a net full of shimmering silver herring from his fishing boat, a 25-foot wooden canoe painted bright red, bobbing on the water in front of the rocky beach. He untangles the small fish from the net while market sellers crowd the shore, waiting to purchase the catch. "I've been working as a fisherman for a few years now. For us, it is the only means of livelihood," says Johnson, who lives in the fishing community of Goderich, a suburb of Sierra Leone's capital city, Freetown.
He says it is hard work, but making a living from fishing has been made even more difficult in recent years, because foreign trawlers have been terrorising these communities by poaching in the Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ), an area reserved for artisanal fishermen with small boats, like Johnson's.
Fishing gear destroyed
The pirate fishers would cut nets, occasionally ram boats, and frequently damage the marine environment. "When we'd go out to fish, we sometimes saw trawlers destroy fishing gear and run off. Their boats are bigger and faster [than ours\," says Johnson.
Although a recently released report by UK-based NGO Environmental Justice Foundation says that foreign poaching in the IEZ has dropped to zero, West Africa is still the region that is most affected by piracy fishing, losing more than a third of the total catch to foreign poachers. More....