MONROVIA: To address claims that migrant fishers are depleting Liberia’s waters through the use of unacceptable fishing gears at the disadvantage of local fishermen, the Director General of National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) has issued a mandate for the setting up of a taskforce in Maryland, Grand Kru, Sinoe and River Cess to deal with migrant and illegal fishing.
Madam Emma Metieh made the statement Wednesday at the start of a three-day stakeholders meeting at its technical office at the Mesurado Pier.
The meeting comes on the heels of requests by Liberian fishermen for NaFAA to address the issue of migrant fishing during the visit of madam Glassco and delegation to Maryland, Grand Kru, Sinoe and River Cess Counties in May 2023.
Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue, Liberia Immigration Service Commissioner General Robert Budy, Sr, and Liberia Coast Guard Commander Captain Willie John S-Kek are attending the meeting. Fishermen, fishmongers and other fishery stakeholders from different fishing communities across the country are also attending the meeting.
During the meeting, Liberian fishing chiefs representing the four counties complained that migrant fishers are depleting Liberian waters, and requested that the government through NaFAA provides whatever assistance to deal with the situation. They also disclosed that the migrant fisherfolks are using unacceptable fishing gears to scop smaller fish in the ocean.
Maryland County Sea Chief, Alfred D. Nah, said migrant fishermen, mainly from the Ivory Coast are sometimes seen with weapons while fishing in Liberian waters.
“Migrant fishing is on the increase in Maryland. The nets the people are using can kill the smaller fish in the water. If nothing is done, we won’t have fish in the water in the next few years to come”.
Also speaking was River Cess County Sea Chief, Antony Kaye. Kaye said migrant fishermen are gradually depleting the ocean, and called on NaFAA to involve Liberian fishermen in the licensing of non-Liberian fishing canoes.
“River Cess is in tears. If this thing continues, we will not be able to send our children to school”. We live on the ground. It’s good NaFAA consults us before licensing those people”.
One of those issues highlighted at the meeting had to do with the pollution of the waters by migrant fishers through the processing of fermented fish locally known as ‘muen-muen’. Some of the fishermen called on the Liberian fisheries authority to discontinue the licensing of migrant fishers.
Responding to the local fishers’ concerns, Commissioner Budy said it wasn’t possible to stop migrant fishers from fishing in Liberian waters, as doing so would be a violation of protocols that promote trade amongst West African States.
“We are signatory to ECOWAS protocols, so we cannot ban migrant fishers, but need to do it properly. Once you see illegal activities, you need to report them to the joint security in the respective counties. Some of those things you are saying here can be addressed at the county levels”.
Earlier, Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue said the local fishers sometimes aid and abet migrant fishing activities.
“Some of you are responsible for some of the problems you are facing. The local fishers can help in addressing the problems in the fishing community. So, you are your problem. You can form your own strong taskforce to address some of the problems”.
As a temporary precautionary measure, NaFAA through Director General Glassco has issued a mandate for the setting up of a taskforce in Maryland, Grand Kru, Sinoe and River Cess to deal with migrant and illegal fishing. She promised motorcycles and smartphones to enhance the operations of the taskforce.
“We will have a national fisheries taskforce to prosecute fisheries violations. We hope to launch that by next year, but in the meantime, we will have taskforce established in River Cess, Maryland, Sinoe and Grand Kru Counties to address the intrusion of migrant fishers that are depleting our fisheries resources.
“We will assign motorbikes and smart phones that will contain hotline. The taskforce will work with the joint security”.
In addition to the formation of the taskforce, Madam Glassco mentioned that discussions are ongoing with Authorities of the Armed Forces of Liberia for the deployment of Coast Guards in Grand Cape and Maryland to enforce laws and regulations governing the fisheries sector.
The meeting continues on Thursday July 15, 2023.