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TAKING STEPS TO MAKE LIBERIA FISHERIES SECTOR VIBRANT

By: Solomon C. Hedd-Williams (Liberian Agriculture/ Agronomist)

Liberia is now in the position to increase its coastal monitoring security. The National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) of the Republic of Liberia, in its efforts to resuscitate our post conflict stagnant fisheries sector, have made tremendous progress and strides to restore the sector to vibrancy.

The Liberian government, through the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority, has received an additional new surveillance and monitor patrol vessel from the Welsh government of the United Kingdom.

The vessel, called the Pride of Wales, was initially received in February 2019 by our diplomatic mission in the United Kingdom, and entered into Liberia at the Port of Monrovia on April 26, 2019. The Patrol vessel was given to Liberia, as a donation from the Welsh government and transportation to Liberia, was facilitated by the World Bank.

The vessel is intended to boost NaFAA’s efforts to increase patrol and vigilance along Liberia’s coast line and safeguard the country’s fisheries industry from illegal fishing undertaken by foreign trawlers.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities

For more than a decade, Liberia has unfortunately been the victim of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities by foreign vessels. In order to combat this unwarranted practice, the current government has mandated NaFAA, which is the new autonomous authority in the country, to immediately curb the numerous stagnant challenges that the sector has been experiencing for many years. The fisheries sector is one of the most essential sectors for revenue generation in the country and through its potential export market is losing huge amount of revenue on a daily basis from illegal fishing activities.

Certain Counties within the Southeastern Region of Liberia has already been identified by NaFAA as victims of illegal and unreported fishing activities. The counties include, Maryland, Sinoe, Rivercess, Grand Kru and Grand Bassa, respectively. Due to non-monitor and surveillance capabilities, these Counties remain highly vulnerable to foreign intruders.

With the timely donation of the new patrol monitor vessel, the cash-strapped nation is expected to eventually generate more revenue from the fisheries sector, thereby, giving the government the much-needed financial resources to help with its development objectives. This will obviously have a positive impact on the national budget and help to stimulate economic growth.

Other new NaFAA development

In another development, the NaFAA is actively and positively engaged with the World Bank (WB) and is hopeful for its extended support for the Liberian fishery sector. In this regard, discussions have been held by the Director General of NaFAA, Hon. Emma M. Glassco, and authorities of the WB in continuation of the West African Regional Fisheries Projects (WARFP) in Liberia. The NaFAA boss’s recent visit to the World Bank office in Washington, D. C., was in anticipation of a follow up on a US $21 million dollars fisheries project under the WARFP.

The ear marked US $21 million, when approved and given by the World Bank, will be used to construct a modern state of the art fishery processing facility as well as the establishment of landing jetties in targeted five coastal counties, including, Montserrado.

The project, when fully implemented within the five targeted counties, will greatly impact our fisheries sector as there is an ardent need for a state-of-the-art fishing and processing facilities and landing jetties in all our nine coastal counties.

This project is a continuation of the first phase of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP). The World Bank funding program through the International Development Association (IDA) makes allocation to developing countries for the purpose of prioritizing development in different sectors of national economies. The Liberian Government, having successfully implemented phase one of WARFP in 2016, and having allocated $7 million USD in 2018, from its national IDA, is looking forward to a second phase of the WARFP program for 2019 following consultation with the World Bank.

The second phase hopefully is expected to trigger additional US $14 million from the regional IDA that will amount to a total funding package of US $21 million for the Liberian Fisheries sector when the World Bank grants its approval.

In a previous effort to strengthen the fisheries sector, the Liberian Government through the Ministry of finance and development Planning (MOFDP), in conjunction with the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authorities (NaFAA), and the government of Iceland, signed a grant agreement of $3.1 million USD last December of 2018.

According to Hon. Glassco, the grant will help to finance the establishment of the first internationally standardized competent laboratory for certification of fish products as well as cold food in the country. This move will be aimed at generating more revenue for the country and contributing hugely to the overall national budget as the lab will enable certification of Liberia’s fish products for export to the US, EU, Asia, and other Regional markets.

Currently, Liberia is exporting over 200 metric tons of fishery products annually but these products cannot access markets in the USA or the EU. The establishment of the lab is, therefore, key to our ability to reach those markets.

Huge benefits expected

There are huge benefits for Liberia associated with this agreement. Here are a few:

1). There will be Micro –credit programs for fishermen and fish processors in Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Cape Mount Counties.

2). It will improve our fish processing and preservation technology to reduce post harvest loses.

3). It will benefit 7,500 fish sellers and processors by funding a modern fish smoke oven, doing away with our traditional or rudimentary way of drying fish.

4). The funding will support progress for improved fish gears for fishermen.

5). It will improve our fishery capacity, training in fishery science, technology and fish management.

Resurrecting and rehabilitating Mesurado Fisheries Terminal

Another milestone awakening in Liberia is the resurrection and rehabilitation of the Mesurado Fisheries Terminal. Forty years ago, the Mesurado Terminal was thriving with exports to world markets and is currently under rehabilitation and revitalization. The resurrection and rehabilitation of the terminal is in progress and will be directly undertaken and managed by the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority ( NaFAA). The new terminal is expected to create more than 300 jobs along the value chain. The completion of the pier rehabilitation will also allow for the on-shoring of fish caught in Liberia’s waters and reduction of illegal transshipment from trawlers vessel to cargo vessel as is presently taking place.

The pier will undoubtedly attract foreign investment into our fisheries sector, whereby a new and robust fishing industry of multi-purpose vessel will emerge under Liberian ownership, providing sustainable management of fisheries, food security and employment.

Finally, NaFAA takes tremendous pride in the World Bank’s commendation of its director for what the entity has achieved over a relatively short period of time and reassured its commitment to the sustainable management of Liberia’s fisheries resources towards the overall achievement of the government’s Pro-Poor agenda for prosperity and development.

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Solomon C. Hedd-Williams (Liberian Agriculture/ Agronomist)