Delegates from a week-long Blue Oceans Conference in Liberia want governments and international partners to enhance sustainable fisheries management through science-based management measures.
They recommend an ecosystem-based approach by monitoring, control, and surveillance, as well as strengthening cooperation through regional fisheries management organizations and regional fisheries bodies.
The recommendations are contained in an official resolution of the Blue Oceans Conference which ended here at the Millennium Guest House in Congo Town last week.
The Blue Oceans Conference came at the time Liberia is negotiating a controversial fishing deal with Senegal that would allow Senegalese vessels to fish in Liberian waters.
Liberians are generally apprehensive about the deal that would allow 300 Senegalese vessels, including 200 semi-industrial and 100 artisan canoes to fish in Liberia’s waters.
The protocol states that vessels under the agreement will fish “in-demand” shrimp and tuna in spite dangers associated with such practices to marine ecosystem.
Both countries will work to promote cooperation in the area of aquaculture through exchange of scientific information and techniques, organization of expert visits and producers, including conferences and training workshops and implementation of joint aquaculture project, among others.
The House of Representatives last month gave the National Fisheries andAquaculture Authority or NaFAA approval to negotiate the deal that raises more questions than answers about the future of Liberia’s fisheries and aquaculture.
The conference’s Call for Action document wants African countries with oceans to end and mitigate destructive and unsustainable fishing practices by stopping illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, effectively implementing the port state measures agreement and increasing the number of countries, that have ratified the agreement.
The document also stresses a need to recognize and measure role of small-scale fisheries (SSF) in Liberia and the region’s sustainable development, through increased date collection, implementation of principles in the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale (VGSSF) Fisheries into national laws and regulations, and enhanced monitoring and enforcement; improve and promote work to strengthen cooperation on the development of catch documentation schemes and traceability of fish and fish-related products.
They further agree to strengthen capacity building and technical assistance provided to small-scale fishers, to improve their access to marine resources and markets to improve the socio-economic situation of fisher folks, their families and communities and ensuring 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.
According to the document, participating countries should address social responsibility issues within the seafood sector, including protecting human rights and dignity and respecting access to resources, ensuring equality and equitable opportunities to benefit, and improving food and livelihood security and contribute to national and global climate mitigation targets by conserving and restoring coastal blue carbon habitats such as mangroves, salt marshes, and sea grasses, and include these solutions within nationally determined contributions wherever appropriate.
The conference delegates further agree to support plans to develop ocean-related education, including courses at various levels in universities and colleges across Liberia, to promote ocean literacy and a culture of conservation and sustainable use of our ocean while promoting the role of women in the blue economy and identify challenges and opportunities to further empower women and encourage their role in positions of leadership, recognizing that gender equality and empowerment of women will improve the social and economic well-being of society.
The resolution calls upon all stakeholders, including the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) as well as regional governments to continue efforts to support the implementation of SDG 14, in the context of the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) and UN 2030 Agenda.
It also wants international stakeholders to contribute to achieving the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) and reviewing the progress of the 2030 UN Agenda to successfully implement SDG 14, and actively engage in discussions towards the establishment of a coordinating committee in Liberia to track the progress of this call for action and conference commitments – complementing the role of the Abidjan Convention and relevant Regional Seas Program.
The instrument urges the Government of Liberia, its partners, stakeholders, civil society, scientific institutions, and the business community to adopt the following Call for Action, based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, the UN Ocean Decade, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) to preserve the coastal and ocean environment, strengthen partnerships for development, help end poverty, and enhance maritime viability for a prosperous Liberia and West Africa.
By Emmanuel Mondaye –Editing by Jonathan Browne