Despite a moratorium on issuance or renewal of fishing licenses until April 1st, 2011 as announced at the Fishing industry meeting held on January 19th, 2011 by the Minister of Agriculture, industrial fishing vessels continue to dock at the Monrovia Port regularly at the Bong Mines Pier to off load tons of fish caught in Liberian waters.
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.
The first of these measures was the commissioning of the maritime monitoring and surveillance coordination center on February 2nd. During the tour of the center a demonstration was given on the tracking of commercial cargo vessels.
Tracking of fishing vessels is not possible at this stage since the fishing companies known to the authorities have not come forward to install the tracking system on their boats. Their failure to do so jeopardizes the government’s efforts to better manage Liberia fisheries resources and cut out illegal fishing in Liberian water.
Reports have been received of fishing vessels spotted undertaking fishing activities within the 6 miles Inshore Exclusion Zone in Monrovia and Robertsport since the start of the moratorium.
In the absence of trained and authorized 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 a license are liable to a fine of up to 1 million USD. Until this is enforced, industrial companies operating in Liberia will continue to rob the country of its natural resources.