Reports from a World Bank supported project of the West African Fisheries Program (WARFP) for seven countries has ranked Liberia as a top performer in the implementation of Monitoring, Surveillance and Control (MSC) of illegal unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activities in West African waters.
The World Bank and the GEFF are providing support to six West African countries aimed at buttressing efforts to protect the precious marine resources of coastal-line states.
These countries include Liberia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone. All of these nations have media components that occasionally report on governance, socio-economic effects and other critical challenges of fishermen.
Liberia, although rated top in the MSC mechanisms implementation, continues to lag behind.
Even after the civil crisis in Liberia, the challenges of unreported, unregulated and illegal activities in Liberian territorial waters were commonplace from 2010-2012.
In 2009 the World Bank began to help fund the WARFP’s projects.
As part of WARFP’s efforts to sensitize member states of West Africa’s marine resources community, the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC) in early December 2013 held a major workshop with 40 fisheries and security personnel and other stakeholders in Monrovia.
According to the organizers of Liberia’s workshop, two senior staff members were selected to attend the three-day event held at the MoA’s Conference Hall in Gardnerville, outside Monrovia from December 3-5.
In one of our reporter’s visit to the port city of Greenville in Sinoe County in 2012, it was observed that the governance and socio-economic initiatives were conspicuously absent and local fishermen and women at the time complained of constant illegal and unreported fishing activities.
To date, the Liberian Government and support partners are yet to make available the number of vessels tracked down in Liberian territorial waters and appropriate fines imposed for violations.
In spite of this, WARFP-Liberia’s head office has made some strides in supporting the initiative of the fisheries sector through the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) via the Bureau of National Fisheries (BNF).
During 2013, professional interactions and exchanges of relevant documents were carried out amongst staff, personnel, and officials of WARFP-Liberia, BNF and the MoA.
Owing to the serious lack of appropriate equipment, illegal fishing activities at high sea continue to cost the Liberian Government millions.
As a result of the World Bank’s technical and financial support and GEFF efforts, special tracking devices are to be installed on any vessels that intend to carry out fishing activities in Liberian territorial waters.
These sensitive devices are being monitored by trained BNF staff as a form of surveillance, and control mechanisms for unreported illegal activities in the Liberian territorial waters.
There are no available statistics from the BNF discerning how many vessels have been tracked down in the country owing to the sensitive nature of disclosure for security reasons and their consequent implications.
During the period under-review, the West Africa Fisheries project in Liberia initiated the construction of a fisheries landing center at the port city of Robertsport in Grand Cape Mount County.
Reports show that the fisheries project has made considerable progress in terms of construction, yet, fishermen and women in that area continue to express concern over the slow pace.
They stressed the project should be fast-tracked in order to enhance their socio-economic development.
In a 45-minute visit to the major fishing community of West point in Central Monrovia, our reporter was told that challenges earlier encountered at the hands of large vessels have been considerably minimized.
“Large Korean and Chinese vessels have been carrying out fishing activities six nautical miles from Liberian territorial waters for the past few years,” West point fisherman Davidson Wesseh said.
“Our income and profit margins are making steady progress. For this, we wish to thank the Liberian Government—especially the Bureau of National Fisheries—for the well designed laws and regulations governing the fishing industry in Liberia,” Mr. Wesseh told us.
“Our way of life and survival depends on artisanal fishing through the sale of fish to the greater Monrovia area,” he continued.
In closing, fishermen Wesseh sounded an earnest appeal to banking and financial institutions to give consideration to the extension of micro-credit loans to Liberian fishermen in all the fishing communities.
According to BNF, MoA and WARFP-Liberia’s officials, several projects intended for the enhancement of the fisheries sector will be carried out in 2014-2015, in fishing communities throughout Liberia.