By: Macpherson Marbiah
Attendance at the Inaugural Development Committee Meeting on Bushrod Island
The Managing Director of the National Fisheries & Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), Emma Metieh-Glassco, has outlined achievements, disclosing that her administration’s ‘Pro- Poor Aim’ is to increase the benefit of Liberia from a fish stock nation without risking sustainability, to increasing investment in the Offshore Fisheries Sector.
Speaking at the Inaugural Meeting of Liberia Fisheries Development Committee over the weekend in Monrovia, the NaFAA MD told her international and local partners that the aim of the gathering was to avoid duplication of projects and to also showcase priority areas for investment opportunities for Liberia Fisheries Sector.
She noted that based on Liberia’s good standings with its international partners, the World Bank was very instrumental in the construction of the Mesurado Pier for industrial fishing landing site, adding that the institution intents to also establish an onshore land fish processing landing site which will enable them to export fish products, some they have not done before.
Madam Glassco emphasized that Liberia being a costal State 80% of its fish stock are imported in to the country, something she said is a great lost to the nation.
She said her administration intends to improve the value chain by establishing an export and import terminal that will see the country exporting some of its products in order to enhance the fish trade balance and also improve the country’s foreign exchange.
The NaFAA MD noted that Aquaculture in Liberia is weak; as such, Liberia has 30,000 tons of fish demand on its local market, stressing if that can be addressed, the institution will be generating huge sums of revenue for government in return, adding, “There is still a lot of opportunities to grow the sector.”
She then called on her international partners to invest in the sector and at the same time encouraged public/private investment into aquaculture wherein the system will be communalized, thus becoming a business for both industrial and artisanal investments.
Madam Glassco informed her international partners that Liberia still maintains the 6 nautical miles, as the reduction from 6 to 3 was never implemented, stating that the Executive Order was never implemented due to national outcries from other international donors, assuring them that it will be enforced and straightened under her administration.
She said there has also been a success story in the fisheries sector for the huge reduction in Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IIU) fishing activities, stating that before the inception of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project, Liberia had 83% IUU fishing activities in its waters, but it has now been reduced to 30% with the hope to reduce it to zero percent.
“Based on our good fisheries management and governance, we were able to go into some partnership agreement with the EU and other private tuna to exploit our tuna resources. For now, we have about 30 EU vessels including private tuna vessels exploiting our tuna resources,” she said.
Madam Glassco continued: “This has led to double increase based on our good governance and fisheries management, and apart from reducing the illegal fishing activities, our artisanal fishermen have also been able to improve their learning catch in the last five years, it has doubled, so that is something that we have achieved over the years.”
The NaFAA head said through the help of the World Bank, the institution was able to construct a Mega Fish Complex in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County, which is called the Learning Fish Cluster, noting that it is more like a value addition in fish products and fish harvested and consists of drying, processing and ice storage facilities.
She said between 2007 to 2010, the industrial vessels had more catch than the artisanal fisherman, but since the establishment of the Inshore Exclusive Zone (IEZ) in 2010, the fish stock has recovered and artisanal fisherman are now making more catch.
Madam Glassco said they also want to establish more cold storages which focus on the artisanal fishermen as it was observed that most of their fish stock spoiled due to the lack of cold storage.
“If we can have more cold storages built at fishing sites, we will be able to increase the economic value of those products,” she said.
Commenting also on the Community Management Association (CMA), she said the organization has a partnership between government and local the fishing community, wherein government empowers them to be self– regulatory and they in return take ownership of their fish stock.
“In that, their fish stock will be properly managed and revenue will be generated. Liberia has nine coastal counties with high fishing activities, so we want to decentralize this CMA across those counties. We want to improve our monitoring, control and surveillance system where we will be able to monitor vessels activities,” she said.
For his part, EU Head of Cooperation Section Resilience, Alberto Menghini, said as UNMIL leaves the country, the best message that Liberians can send to the rest of the world is that the country can make it because of its natural resources and good population.
He noted that what he understands is that Liberia fisheries are opened for good business for sustainable fisheries, and it is a model that they are hoping to be extended to all of the sectors of the economy.
He said the EU stands ready to provide the needed support that NaFAA needs in implementing its vision, adding that as part of the EU support to the new Liberia Agriculture program, they have earmarked US$10m for the project.
Also speaking, World Bank Senior Natural Resource Economist, Jingjie Chu, said as part of its West Africa Regional Fisheries Program first phase, Liberia was the most successful country among other West African countries because it really held the line and protected its resources.
She said the focus now is how the country can better manage the resources properly so it can benefit the local communities, in converting the fishing to income to help address some of the economic and social problems of the country.
“We want to make a case with the Ministry of Finance because from their prospective, they only see the money coming through their account and they want to see whether the sector has generated the jobs for the country, something which we did and we can do more,” she said.
She assured the NaFAA MD that the World Bank is in full readiness to dredge the landing site at Banjor, West Point, King Grave as well as the Mesurado so as to have a proper landing site.
Chu said the project which is a multi-purpose initiative, which has been estimated at US$9m, will consist of ice plant, processing facility and a central market which will really transform Liberia fisheries sector.