U.K. -based Environmental Justice Foundation or EJF has called on the Government of Liberia to ring-fence its six nautical mile exclusion zone, safeguarding its use for the artisanal fishers that rely on it or their livelihoods and supply Liberia’s food market with vital fish sources.
The U.K. – based organization which promotes non-violent resolution of human rights abuses and related environmental issues and makes direct links between the western world’s demands for cheap food and other goods, especially fish, says 65 percent of Liberia’s animal protein comes from the fishing sector.It says maintaining a steady flow of fish products into Liberia is
vital on grounds that as much as 80 percent of the population is dependant on cheap fish for their diets while over 30 percent of the population is already classified as undernourished.
Since its introduction in 2010, the Inshore Exclusion Zone or IEZ is said to have helped provided higher catch for artisanal fishers and improved food security across the country.
The IEZ is also said to have provided a secure income for coastal populations, and has also seen a reduction in conflict between artisanal and foreign fishing crews and protected the region’s coastal ecosystems.
But EJF says it has recently learned that these huge improvements are at risk as the Government of Liberia looks to either reduce or fully eliminate the IEZ. 11,000 fishermen are said to operate across 114 landing sites along Liberia’s 579 kilometer coastline, primarily fishing within the six Nautical Mile or NM limit.
Some 33,000 people are said to rely on the artisanal fishing industry for their jobs and income, all of which would be put at risk by a reduction to the exclusion zone.
Meanwhile, the EJF has warned that reducing or removing the IEZ would see an almost inevitable rise of competition from foreign industrial vessels fishing in coastal waters fishing in coastal waters, with much of the catch being exported to overseas markets.
“This would mean a drop in the level of fish being supplied to Liberia and in the availability of fish products and an increase in the price of seafood,” the EJF has warned
The Community Management Association from Robertsport, representing artisanal fisherman in the region said: “The IEZ has been a huge benefit for artisanal fisherman in Liberia”.
It adds that “by stopping industrial trawlers from fishing in our coastal water s, it has meant we have seen a huge boost in fish catch and in turn an increase in our income”.
It observes that the whole of Liberia depends on the IEZ for food and incomes, urging that the government continues to maintain the zone and not to eliminate or reduce it. EJF Executive Director Steve Trent said “The six nautical mile limit
is crucial to the well-being of hundreds of thousands of Liberians living in coastal communities and across the country”.
EJF is calling on the Government of Liberia to safeguard the IEZ,
protecting the vital tool for current and future generations of
coastal communities. – New Dawn