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Sierra Leone is located in the Southwestern sector of the great bulge of West Africa. It lies between 7°N and 10°N and is bordered on the North and East by the Republic of Guinea, and on the South by Liberia. Sierra Leone has a territorial sea limit of 200 mi. Its coastline is about 506 km. In addition to the mainland proper, Sierra Leone also includes the offshore Banana, Turtle and Sherbro Islands, as well as other islets. The coastline has extensive mangrove swamps and a number of estuaries and rivers that are navigable for short distances.

The western tip of Sherbro Island delimits two contrasting coastal waters. The narrow southern shelf has limited fish resources and is influenced by the eastward flowing Guinea current. The northern Sierra Leonean coast on the other hand constitutes the productive shelf of Sierra Leone. Therefore, most of the artisanal fishing activities in Sierra Leone occur in the North. Here, there are three major estuaries: the Scarcies River, the Sierra Leone River and the Sherbro River, as well as the Yauoni Bay. The continental shelf has good yield potential for demersal and pelagic fish as well as shrimps.

The inshore multiple stock fisheries are exploited with a variety of gears (gillnets, cast nets, beach seines, trawls, purse seines, ringnets, traps and hooks), operated from different artisanal and industrial fishing boats. Before the Italians introduced trawlers in 1955, fishing was purely artisanal. Even today, the catch of the artisanal sector accounts for more than 80% of the total national fish landings.

The available data show that the catch of the artisanal fleet rose from about 22 500 t in 1971 to about 62 000 t in 1982, whereas the catches of the national and local industrial fleet were 1 000 t and 6 000 t in 1971 and 1982, respectively. On the other hand, the total catch of foreign vessels (trawlers, purse seiners, longliners and shrimpers) jumped from 4 000 t in 1971 to about 106 000 t in 1982.

In the circumstances of increased fishing activities in the waters of Sierra Leone, it is vital to determine the magnitudes of available fishery resources and their potential yields compared to present levels of harvest in order to be able to ascertain the long-lasting economic benefits that can accrue from various fishery development activities and management policies. Hence, this study focuses on the magnitudes of the demersal and pelagic stocks, assesses the species composition of exploitable stocks, compares the productivity and catch rates of artisanal and industrial fisheries and also describes the interaction between various fisheries.

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