Despite a moratorium on issuance or renewal of fishing licences until April 1, 2011, announced at the recent fishing industry meeting by the minister of agriculture, industrial fishing vessels continue to dock at the Monrovia port. They are regularly seen at the Bong Mines Pier offloading tonnes of fish caught in Liberian waters, according to a report by The Inquirer.
According to the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project in Liberia, the moratorium has been put in place by the Ministry of Agriculture to allow for the preparatory work necessary to provide a sound platform for smooth application of the new fisheries regulations and for the sustainable management of Liberia’s fish stocks, to be done.
WARFP said the first of these measures was the inauguration of the maritime monitoring and surveillance coordination centre on February 2. During the tour of the centre, a demonstration was given on the tracking of commercial cargo vessels. The group noted that tracking of fishing vessels was not possible at this stage since the fishing companies known to the authorities had not come forward to install the tracking system on their boats.
“Their failure to do so jeopardises the government’s efforts to better manage Liberia’s fisheries resources and cut out illegal fishing in Liberian waters.
Reports have been received of fishing vessels spotted undertaking fishing activities within the six miles Inshore Exclusion Zone in Monrovia and Robertsport since the start of the moratorium. WARFP said in the absence of trained and authorised inspectors and observers, the Bureau of National Fisheries is currently unable to enforce the moratorium and the new fishing regulations.
However, the minister of agriculture is taking steps with the Ministry of Justice to ensure the prompt resolution of this matter. Companies caught for fishing without licence are liable to a fine of up to $1m. Until this is enforced, industrial companies operating in Liberia will continue to rob the country of its natural resources, WARFP concluded.