By Judoemue M. Kollie
Liberia’s fisheries sector currently plays a very significant role towards the economic growth of the country, as it contributes approximately 12 percent towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The entity said the sector is a dynamic industry that offers employment opportunities for over 33,000 individuals including fishers, fishmongers and processors staying along coastal communities.
However, despite the contribution, the fisheries sector still faces the threat of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU) which undermines the livelihood of fishers and the food security of many Liberian citizens as well as revenue generation for the country.
As part of an effort to reduce IUU fishing in the territorial waters of Liberia, fisheries stakeholders over the weekend concluded a 3-day workshop in Marshall, Margibi County.
The workshop aimed to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and a Term of Reference (TOR) geared toward bringing stakeholders together for the effective implementation of the PSMA.
PSMA is a global legal instrument that aims to prevent or eliminate IUU fishing by restricting vessels engaged in such activities for using ports and landing their catches.
Liberia has since signed the PSMA legal instrument but its implementation remains weak.
The workshop was organized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA).
It brought together participants from some government line ministries and agencies, including Maritime, Ministry of Defense, National Port Authority, Liberia Revenue Authority, Ministry of Commerce, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), and the APM Terminal, Liberia National Police as well as leaders from the Co-management Associations (CMAs), fishermen and fish mongers and other stakeholders.
Speaking at the close of the workshop on behalf of the FAO Country Ad Interim Representative, Bintia Stephen Tchicaya, the National Project Coordinator and Partnership Specialist at FAO, Emmanuel Kapee said that fisheries sector of Liberia is important because of its current role in strengthening the food security of Liberians.
According to him, the sector contributes to food security by ensuring about 65% of the national protein needs of Liberians.
He also mentioned that fisheries serve as a significant source of employment and livelihood for many people in fishing communities as well as represent an opportunity for revenue generation for the country.
“IUU fishing poses a significant threat to the marine ecosystems and undermines national and regional efforts to manage fisheries sustainably.
This situation according to Kapee shows that fighting IUU fishing must be a national priority that requires a collective involvement of all”, he said.
Kapee mentioned that he strongly believes that the workshop is part of his institution’s lasting solution in reducing IUU fishing.
“We have come not only to review and reinforce the Inter-agency Corporation but to revise and update mechanisms that can quickly be adopted to ensure that Liberia is in the best position to fight IUU fishing in a unified way,” he said.
He mentioned that FAO remains steadfast in its commitment to combating IUU fishing globally.
“We stand ready to support and strengthen the government of Liberia’s efforts in this vital endeavor,” he said.
However, Kapee stressed the need to unite efforts in mobilizing resources to combat IUU fishing effectively.
“We must safely guide our marine resources for the current and the future generation to benefit fully from the economic potential of the fisheries sector,” he mentioned.
For her part, the Program Officer-Green Team Delegation of the European Union to Liberia, Maria WINNUBST challenged local fisheries stakeholders to seriously take the fight against IUU fishing.
“All of you have a role to play to safely guide your waters to make fishermen sustain their incomes. I understand that Liberia is one of the countries with the biggest fish stock in the region,” he said.
According to her, all stakeholders have a crucial role to play in order to safe guide the lives of fishermen.
She called on authorities of the fisheries sector to make sure that the fisheries management plan is working effectively.
“I want to encourage you to work together to safely guide the lives of fishermen and their children. You must take the PSMA seriously to make your country one of the best in the region,” she emphasized.
The Deputy Director for Technical Services at NaFAA, William Y. Boah said that though Liberia has signed an agreement to end IUU fishing much still needs to be done.
“It requires all stakeholders to work together collectively. This draft MOU is meant to bring us together to find a way for a sustainable fisheries sector. There is a need for us to fight together to manage the resources of our waters,” he said.
He said that the regional fisheries committee of West Africa was helping to manage fisheries sustainably and they are looking for the potential to support stakeholders from members’ countries.
He commended the European Union for its numerous support to the fisheries sector of Liberia.
Meanwhile, the workshop participants agreed to further review the proposed documents and later derived a conclusion regarding their approach in implementing the PSMA. Editing by Jonathan Browne