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Echo from the Blue Oceans Conference

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Resolution from the just-ended Blue Oceans Conference held in Liberia calls on governments around the world, including international partners to enhance sustainable fisheries management through science-based management measures, such as ecosystem-based approach by monitoring, control, and surveillance, as well as strengthening cooperation through regional fisheries management organizations and regional fishery bodies.

The resolution calls upon all stakeholders, including the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and regional governments to continue efforts in supporting implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, in the context of the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) and the UN 2030 Agenda.

The recommendations are contained in an official resolution of the Blue Oceans Conference which convened from March 18 – 21 at the Millennium Guest House in Congo Town, suburb of Monrovia.

The conference resolution could not have come at any better time than just as Liberia is negotiating a fishing agreement with the Republic of Senegal for 300 Senegalese vessels, including 200 semi-industrial and 100 artisan canoes to fish in our waters in exchange for training of Liberian fishermen.

Ordinary Liberians are jittery about the deal. They are not biting their tongues in expressing so, for an agreement that is geared at having foreigners exploit our waters with exclusive right to fish just about anything deep in our ocean.

Their concerns are genuine especially, so when Senegal has a bad history of depleting its own waters of marine life; and is now turning to a vulnerable and less sophisticated country such as Liberia for a vital nature endowment.

Fishes are among some of the healthiest foods on the planet. They are loaded with important nutrients, such as protein and vitamin D, and are also the world’s best source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for the development of the human body and brain.

Last month, the House of Representatives mandated the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority or NaFAA to negotiate protocol on the implementation of the Agreement on Fisheries and Aquaculture Cooperation between the Government of Liberia and the Government of Senegal. Negotiation between the two countries may just be ongoing and could well be at its advanced stage.

But recommendations from the Blue Oceans Conference identify various flashpoint areas, clearly indicating there are still much work to do in Liberia before finalizing such fishing agreement, as delegates call for strengthening capacity building and technical assistance to small-scale fishers, to improve their access to marine resources and markets as well as improve socio-economic situation of fisher folks, their families and communities and ensure that any future fishing agreements with external countries or other parties are grounded in science-based approaches to secure sustainability of fish stocks and prioritize the equitable distribution of benefits between countries and stakeholder groups.

As Liberian authorities negotiate the Protocol on the implementation of the Agreement on Fisheries and Aquaculture Cooperation with their Senegalese counterparts, we believe strongly these are critical areas that should be addressed with the national interest as paramount. Anything on the contrary, would have posterity to judge all of us unkindly.

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