The National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority or NaFAA, has an opportunity to take Liberia’s fisheries and aquaculture to a better level that would protect our country’s marine life and improve operation of local fishermen or move the entire industry down the drain.
The House of Representatives has mandated NaFAA to negotiate the protocol on the implementation of the Agreement on Fisheries and Aquaculture Cooperation between the Government of Liberia and the Government of Senegal that would allow 300 vessels from Senegal, including 200 semi-industrial and 100 artisan canoes to fish our waters in exchange for training for Liberian fisher men.
Liberians are generally apprehensive about the deal, and 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 had depleted 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 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.
Senegal is said to have demersal trawlers, fishing vessels that have huge funnel-shaped nets that are dragged along the ocean floor in order to maximize catch, including plants and animals that make up the habitat in which fish live and reproduce.
Local fishermen, who have regularly complained about foreign fishing vessels illegally casting their nets in Liberian waters, are now asking how effectively NaFAA would monitor 300 additional foreign vessels coming into our waters.
These are concerns the agency should consider as it goes to formally negotiate with the Senegalese. It should prioritize the interest of local fishermen and not just focus on the taxes or revenue expected.
What guarantee is there that our ocean would not be depleted by a country that had depleted its marine deposits? Would local fishermen be allowed to continue their normal catch or they would now face restrictions from the Senegalese?
They need assurance and NaFAA should be able to provide such confidence that they would not be relegated to give way to foreign fishermen who have their focus on market back home, instead of Liberia.
These are among some of the germane concerns that should be considered as NaFAA goes to negotiate the protocol. We demand a win-win deal that would benefit not just us today, but posterity.