The government of Liberia through the Agriculture Ministry in collaboration with the West African Regional Fishery Project has with immediate effect held a moratorium on the issuance or renewal of all fishing licenses to industrial fishing vessels operating in the Liberian territorial waters.
Speaking at a news conference held in Monrovia on Wednesday at the Ministry, Deputy Minister for Technical Affairs, Dr. Sizi Subah, said that a lot of preparatory works need to be done in order to provide a sound platform for smooth application of new fisheries regulations for a sustainable management of Liberia fish stocks, “reason why a moratorium on fishing is necessary. Regulations were gazette on November 24th 2010”, he said.
He said that the moratorium will remain in place until April of this year and that all measures put in place should meet the adherence of all fishing vessels. Minister Subah also indicated that there the new measures put in place include the extension of the inshore exclusion zone (the area reserved for artisanal fishermen), from three nautical miles to six nautical miles.
Stressing that any industrial fishing vessel found in the zone will be committing an offence under the new Liberian Fishery Regulations. According to him, the performance bond is to be provided as a precondition of licensing to any foreign fishing vessels as financial guarantee for the fulfillment of all obligations arising out of the regulations.
He pointed out that an application for license of 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.
Dr. Subah noted that the 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.
“Effective as of the pronouncement, the license fee for industrial fishing now constitutes 10 per cent vessel value of the catch and by catch during the entire licensing period”, he said.
He disclosed that there will be 100 percent observer coverage for all industrial fishing vessels for purposes of monitoring vessels’ log books which are now mandatory for each vessel as a condition of the license.
Dr. Subah indicated that illegal fishing and transshipment are causing Liberia an estimated annual loss of over US$12 million. “Under the new fishing regulations civil offences and penalties will be applied, ranging from minor offences and penalties as low as US$10,000, to grave offences or penalties of US$1 million magnitude.