Boat owners, fishermen and fishmongers at Shella Water, Goderich, Portee and other wharfs around the peninsula fishing communities have staged peaceful protest in annoyance over an unannounced increment on local fishing boats license fees.

The boat owners and fishermen accompanied by fishmongers complained that they cannot afford to pay the new rate, and blamed the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources for not consulting with them before taking the decision.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is responsible to manage the country’s aquatic resources and enforce national policies on the use and management of fisheries, aquaculture and marine resources.

In line with this, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources introduced an increment on registration license of fishing boats from one hundred thousand Leones (Le100,000) to five hundred thousand Leones (Le500,000); from two hundred and fifty thousand Leones (Le250,000) to one million Leones (Le1,000,000) respectively which boat owners, fishermen and other stakeholders say is unreasonable and they cannot afford to pay such exorbitant amounts.

Councilor for Ward 386, Mohamed D. Guy Mansaray said the Ministry did not consult him, the boat owners or the fishermen before taking such a decision, which he referred to as “sabotage” to the government.

He stated that as a councilor representing the interests of the people in his community, the ministry should have consulted him and other stakeholders in the community to negotiate before increasing the price on boat licenses.

The Councilor further informed AYV that he is also a fisherman that has fished locally and internationally and that he understands the cry of the boat owners, adding that the boat owners are willing to pay but that the fees are too high and should be reduced.

Former headman of Goderich Sherbro Town, Papa Kamara informed AYV that during his term in office (2010 to 2017) they paid boat license fees to the Western Area Rural District Council (WARDC) in a more coordinated and organized manner. He stated that the automatic increment of boat license fees without reference to the end users is what caused the protest, adding that during his tenure, consultation was the watchword before such decisions were taken. He however called on the protesters to seek peaceful resolution to the impasse.

He further explained that conditions at the wharfs are not conducive for boat owners and fishermen and for the people coming to buy their catch.

Boat owner and fishmonger Augusta Sam called on the Ministry to reconsider the decision. According to her, it is from the sale of fish that she takes care of her family.

In response, the Assistant Director of Fisheries at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Victor Kargbo when contacted said that for the past one year, the Ministry had not been collecting license dues from artisanal fishermen and that the Western Area Rural District Council had been responsible for licensing boats. He added that since the function of collecting boat license fees was devolved to the WARDC, they have been collecting far less than expected.

“We were expecting them to be paying higher amounts but because they have not been collecting the dues, the Ministry’s work is constrained and this has been the situation we want to change,” he said.

He explained further that the Ministry decided to increase the fees to reflect current rates in the sub-region, adding that foreign canoes coming into Sierra Leonean waters to fish, do not also want to pay because they expect the same treatment as their Sierra Leonean counterparts.

He maintained that these fees when collected are used to development the various wharfs in the country.