The Liberian Government through the Ministry of Agriculture has place a halt order on all industrial fishing in the territorial waters of the country.
Addressing a news conference Wednesday in Monrovia, Deputy Agriculture Minister for Technical Services Dr. Sizi Subah announced that the ministry took the decision late 2010 in an effort to preserve and manage Liberia’s fish stocks.
He said the nation was losing up to $12M annually due to illegal fishing and transshipment and as such, a proper mechanism was needed to tackle the troubling situation facing the country.
There are about 150 fishing vessels plying Liberia’s waters that majority of them do not pay taxes to government, he said.
Dr. Subah noted that based on numerous difficulties Liberia is faced with due to illegal fishing, the ministry has instituted new regulations including the moratorium that are to be lifted by April 2011 after a successful implementation of these regulations.
Speaking of the new Fisheries Regulations, Minister Subah announced the extension of the Inshore Exclusion Zone, the area reserved for artisanal fishermen, from 3 nautical miles to 6 nautical miles.
He stressed that is effective immediately any industrial fishing vessel found in this zone will be committing an offence under the new Liberian Fisheries Regulations.
Dr. Subah indicated that the new measures are intended to ensure that the fishing industry contribute significantly to the socio-economic development, employment generation as well as Gross Domestic Product of Liberia.
He indicated that effective as of the pronouncement, the license fee for industrial fishing vessel now constitutes 10% of the vessel annual value of the catch and by-catch during the entire licensing period.
The Ministry furthered that there will be 100% observer coverage for all industrial fishing vessels immediately for the purposes of monitoring vessel log books which are now mandatory for each vessel as per the condition of the license.
Under the new regulations, the Ministry of Agriculture through the Bureau of National Fisheries (BNF) has the primary responsibility for enforcement and will supervise the monitoring program.
A monitoring, control and surveillance Center is being set-up to include vessel satellite monitoring, as well as sea and air patrols at the Ministry to boost security on water, Dr. Subah declared.
According to report the Bureau is charged with the mandate to coordinate fishing functions and responsibilities with relevant government ministries and agencies.
In that respect, a memorandum of understanding has been signed with the Liberian Coast Guard, Maritime Authority, Liberia National Police, Ministry of Justice and the Bureau of Immigrations and Naturalization (BIN) in combating the problem, Agriculture Ministry official disclosed.
The initiative to improve the governance, control and economic impact of fisheries in Liberia is coordinated by the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP) Liberia, a 14 Million United States Dollars project financed by the World Bank and Global Environment Facility Fund.
According to Agriculture Ministry official, a meeting attended by owners and operators of industrial Fishing Vessels as well as executives of the Liberia Artisanal Fishermen Association; were informed that a performance bond is to be provided as a pre-condition of licensing to any foreign fishing vessel, as financial guarantee for the fulfillment of all obligation arising out of the regulations.
Also making remarks the project coordinator of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP), Dr. Lawrence Braimah announced that an application for license for industrial fishing vessels must be accompanied by a fishing plan that includes, the species, quantity of the targeted fish and by-catch for each month of the full period of the validity of a license.