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Wetlands International Africa supports Sierra Leone government in sea-weed disaster mitigation

12-Sep-2011

Freetown, Sierra Leone - Sierra Leone’s Environmental Protection Agency has requested Wetlands International Africa’s assistance in the mitigation of tones of sea-weed that have covered its beaches in the last two months. More informations can be found in the local news here.

As sea weeds continue to wash the pristine beaches along the coast of Sierra Leone, indigenous and foreign investments in the tourism and fishing industry have raised fears over the sudden turn -down of business in the country. Staggering figures in lost profits incurred by some businesses in the tourism and fishing industry has prompted a sudden plea for an immediate solution to the dreadful sea weeds that is causing havoc on the livelihood of many families.

Senie Gbondo who owns a wooden carved boat employing fifteen fishermen along Lumley Beach, said since the sea weeds washed the shoreline two months ago, his business has been crumbling. “My boat has reported the lowest catch for the past twelve years, which has caused me serious financial setback with huge debt burden.Gbondo said the sea weeds are not only causing low fish catch but his fishing gears are also clogged by the weeds causing serious damages on the nets. He went on to explain to our reporter in distress mood as he examines the fishing net entangled in weeds to a fishing boat on dock. “We have decided not to risk our lives on the fishing boat, because business has not been doing well at sea.” Gbondo lamented. He confidently blamed the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources beating his chest as drops of sweats roled down his forehead to his cheek profusely.

Under the scorching sun around Njala Venue, Lumley Beach, he explained to our reporter that the Ministry of Fisheries took their one finger nets considered to be bad nets with the promise of replacing them soonest but we are still waiting for the promise. Gbondo is furious that the people from government took their nets and wrote names without coming back quiescent on his wooden carved boat on dock at the beach with a pile of stretches of damaged fishing nets. “I’m planning to mend my nets which costs around Le3m, resulting to workers going without salary for the month of August,” he said. He candidly appealed for help with balls of tears rolling down his face in distress.

Several boat anchors are buried deep into the sand along with other fishing boats; heavy stench hanging over fishmongers selling under a coconut tree, who had gone as far as Lakka, Godrich, Tombo and back for fish to sell just to earn a living and feed families at home. Most of their baskets and head pans contained nothing instead of crabs, shrimps and few fishes. The demand for fish has doubled in the market says Balu Sesay, Chairlady of the fishmongers along Lumley Beach, dressed in dark blouse and skirt clutching a stick of cigarette with her left fingers. Balu Sesay explained that she is under immense pressure from customers and association members over the acute shortage of fish in the market, so is the fishermen that have caused prices to double.

The Okeky Fishing Agency has also reported decline in fish catch in the past two months by 40%. The company is currently operating 10 trawlers along the coast of Sierra Leone which is largely supplying the local fish market. However, the sea weeds along the coast have equally done more harm than good to the tourism industry. Shangri-La complex, Alafia point, Plan B and the Village Bar and Restaurant have closed down businesses and more have expressed fear over the magnitude and stench of the sea weeds covering the once pristine beaches, which scares guests and visitors causing loss in revenue. Musa Mbayai is a tractor operator who has been using a tractor to clean the beach, the Scot Managa Development Association which was contracted by government.

Our reporter found out that it was seemingly evident that neither the tractor nor the beach boys can cope in mitigating the high magnitude of sea weeds that keeps coming on hourly basis. Daniel Pessima who works for Njala Venue is also not happy about the way government is handling the sea weeds crisis that has troubled businesses recently. He says the huts they constructed on the beach front have also been threatened by piles of sea weeds and soil erosion making it difficult for business. Pessima suggested that government should hire more workers to clean the beach or buy the weeds and store them somewhere because they are driving away our customers. It could be recalled that the sea weeds have been causing havocs on the coastline of Sierra Leone for the past two months and several efforts have been put in place to prove the source and cause of the sea weeds with the hope of any possibility of utilizing the tons of sea weeds laying waste along the beach.

The Environmental Protection Agency has swiftly intervened to mitigate the environmental catastrophe currently taking place along the coast, by requesting for assistance from Wetlands International Africa based in Senegal whose samples report is expected within this month.The World Bank and the Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography at Fourah Bay College are currently soliciting funds to make available laboratory test tools at the University for future test samples in the country. Socially inclined visitors of Lumley Beach have also expressed displeasure over the current status of the beach and have called for government’s intervention to avoid environmental disaster. By Saidu Bah.

Communications and Media Coordinator

Wetlands International Africa

Phone: +221 33 869 16 81

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