The Isle of Man’s role in rescuing poor coastal communities in West Africa from the blight of illegal fishing by foreign trawlers has been highlighted at an international conference on environmental crime.
The provision of a fisheries protection vessel and ongoing advice to Sierra Leone, as well as the installation of a satellite monitoring system for the fishing fleet there, has contributed to an estimated 35% increase in local landings, netting an additional $16 million in earnings for the country’s fishermen.
Now the story of the Manx Government’s successful partnership with the small African nation has been heard by a high-level audience at a conference hosted by Interpol and the United Nations Environment Programme.
The gathering of government and NGO representatives from around the world listened to a keynote address from Phil Gawne MHK, the Island’s Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture and chairman of the Government’s International Development Committee.
Mr Gawne told the International Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference in Nairobi: ‘The Isle of Man and Sierra Leone may at first seem unlikely partners but in fisheries terms we share a common goal of developing sustainable, well regulated and most importantly profitable fisheries sectors’.
He said the partnership developing between the two countries offered ‘a quite novel and productive approach’ to tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Mr Gawne explained: ‘While in development aid terms the monetary value of the Isle of Man’s contribution is small, the added value comes through my own time and that of other Government staff. Our support is as much about time and personal input as it is about money.
‘My Government is making a single commitment to a single nation which we hope will strengthen and develop in the future – and most importantly we are building strong personal relationships both at political and officer level.’
Speaking after the conference Mr Gawne commented: ‘This was a great platform to promote the Isle of Man’s reputation as a progressive nation that is serious about global responsibility – not only in terms of tax co-operation but also in the context of development aid and sustainability. We are a small country making a big difference to the lives of some of the world’s poorest people, and that is an achievement to be proud of.’
• Meanwhile the Isle of Man’s involvement in Sierra Leone has been praised by the World Bank, with which the Manx Government has been working in partnership in the country. A statement from the organisation said: ‘The task team of the fisheries programme of the World Bank is particularly appreciative of the Isle of Man for providing such well targeted support where it is most needed.’
Photo - Phil Gawne’s at the recent international environmental crime conference at the United Nations complex in Nairobi, Kenya.