The Minister of Agriculture Dr. Moses Zinnah says the government and partners will improve fisheries and aquaculture sectors to boost the economy.
Speaking at the opening of a two day draft revised fisheries and aquaculture regulations validation workshop yesterday in Monrovia, Dr. Zinnah was confident that investment in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors will improve the livelihood of citizens involved in the trade.
Dr. Zinnah said it is estimated that more than half of Liberia’s population live along its 570 km coastline and are dependent or partially dependent on fishing as a livelihood.
He said the reform process in the fisheries sector started in 2011 with the preparation of the first comprehensive fisheries and aquaculture policy and strategy which was adopted by the Cabinet on June 8, 2015.
“Subsequently the draft fisheries and aquaculture act and the revised fisheries regulations are before the legislature and I hope that it is passed into law,” Dr. Zinnah said
He said the passage of this law will contribute to improving the fisheries and aquaculture sectors and generate more income.
According to him, the average fish consumption per capita in Liberia is only 4kg,which is far lower than the 17kg for other coastal states in sub-Sahara Africa and 22kg for the global average, leaving a fish supply deficit in the country of 48,000 tons per annum to supplement the current fish production levels from marine sources.
“Before the civil war, the potential yield of marine fisheries resources was estimated at 150,000 tons per year of which less than 10,000 tons was exploited legally on an annual basis from both the industrial and artisanal fisheries,” he said.
A substantial part of this potential was subjected to illegal fishing by foreign vessels, resulting to an estimated annual revenue loss of about US$12million to the country, Dr. Zinnah added.
He said for decades there was the lack of a long term vision for the fisheries sector as well as the institutional structure to implement the necessary changes. A national monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) strategy to support policy to the socio-economic development of Liberia was also lacking.
This situation, he said, persisted because of an outdated legal framework by the Natural Resources Law of 1957 that did not capture any of the significant and emerging changes in the international fisheries management arena.
He also explained that the fisheries resources have been an open access for all for decades, resulting in the proliferation of illegal fishing activities, dwindling fish stocks and loss.
“However, there is no better time than now for us to arm ourselves with the right weaponry to defend, protect, conserve and sustainably utilize the fisheries resource of Liberia for the benefit of the unborn generations,” urged Dr. Zinnah.
The Assistant Minister for Coast Guard Affairs at the Ministry of Defense, Timothy Grandoe, in his remarks said the economic situation in the country depends on the fishery sector because it can be effective when regulatory laws are enforced.
“The limitation of logistics,” he said, “remains a challenge but the Ministry through the Coast Guard will work with the MOA to boost the fisheries sector.”
The president of the Liberia Artisanal Fishermen’s Association (LAFA), Patrick Nyentee, appealed for policy that will regulate the operations of the sector.
“As fishermen, we need a policy to regulate the protection of the sea to enable us to work smoothly in helping the government to move the sector forward to benefit everyone,” Mr. Nyentee said.