A Chinese fishing vessel has been caught fishing illegally in the territorial waters of Sierra Leone, off the West African coast.
Commodore Sallieu Kanu, the head of Sierra Leone’s navy, said the boat was first intercepted on Thursday night by local fishermen after they came under attack.
“Local fishermen chased and boarded the Chinese vessel having repeatedly come under attack by illegal fishing trawlers which destroyed their nets,” he told Freetown Radio Democracy.
“Once they boarded, they were allegedly offered a bribe by the Chinese crew, which they refused. They called on the navy and our boats sprang into action and brought the vessel and crew ashore.”
This is not the first time a foreign vessel has been caught fishing illegally in Sierra Leone.
In April 2017, four fishing boats were held during a joint surveillance mission conducted by Greenpeace and Sierra Leone fishery authorities.
Two Chinese and one Korean vessel were arrested for infringements of Sierra Leone’s fishing laws, including using illegal fishing nets, and a lack of required paperwork and authorization.
At the state opening of parliament in May, Sierra Leone’s new president, Julius Maada Bio, said one of his key objectives is to create a profitable fisheries industry that will benefit the people.
“My administration will focus on improving marine resource governance and sustainable management of fisheries, reducing illegal fishing, improving the quality of marine products, and developing fishing infrastructure,” he said.
According to a World Bank report, Sierra Leone’s fishing sector employs an estimated 36,000 people.
Annually, Sierra Leone is losing an estimated $50 million to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, added the report.