Maritime Commissioner Lenn Eugene Nagbe says there is a need for the country to negotiate better fisheries deals with the European and Asian partners interested in the country’s fisheries resources, in order to improve food security.
According to him, in the past, the government entered into several fisheries access agreements that did not seem to significantly benefit Liberia.
He said many of the agreements did not consider the qualification of the experts and were meant to satisfy certain political conditions without looking at the technical details.
He made the statement on Monday, during the opening of a capacity-building fisheries access agreement workshop.
The training program brings together participants from government line ministries, agencies and the media at a resort in Monrovia.
It is being facilitated by Africa Legal Support Facility (ALSF) in collaboration with National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), with funding from the African Development Bank.
Commissioner Nagbe asked that as the country goes through another cycle on how to enter an access agreement, fisheries experts must consider all of the implications regarding those agreements.
“Even the EU Yellow cards all tie up how they want to access our fisheries resources. This sometimes makes it very difficult to negotiate the best,” he said.
Nagbe, who is also a board member of the NaFAA, said that fish is a very important and scarce resource that, when managed properly, can improve the economy.
According to him, Liberia is a sovereign nation and, as such, the negotiation of access fisheries agreement should not be restricted.
“There are always certain requirements or conditions to adhere to under those agreements. This issue about access agreements must be taken at the level of our political leaders to enable the country to get the best from the process,” he added.
He further said to get a better deal there is a need for the leadership of the African Union to get involved.
“The political leaders must get involved in the negotiation of the access fisheries agreement. But if they tie access agreements to foreign aid, it makes it very difficult for us as a nation,” he reiterated.
“African countries have been tied down to those agreements so this thing has to change,” he argued.
He stated that his office is working with the fisheries authorities to ensure that the country has access to better agreements for the country.
The Maritime Commissioner used the occasion to call on the Liberian media to gain education about the fisheries access agreement in order to better inform the public.
For her part, the director-general of NaFAA, Emma M. Glassco, said that the training comes at a time that the country really needs it.
According to her, based on the participation of some of her staff in similar training outside the country, they thought it wise to request the support of the African Development Bank to fund the training in Liberia.
“We are grateful to the Bank for providing the funding to get the staff of our fisheries sector trained. The training is important in improving the capacity of the staff to better manage the sector,” she said.
“My staff who attended that training strongly believe that the training was needed for this country. Because of their persistent initiative, we have the opportunity for the training,” she explained to the participants.
According to her, the training will help the participants to always place Liberia first in any negotiation with the partners.
She thanked the African Development Bank for providing the money to make the workshop to be held.
The NaFAA boss stated that there are plans to renegotiate fisheries access agreements with partners.
She likewise used the occasion to call on the media to take advantage of the training to better inform the public.
Government ministries and agencies participating in the fisheries training are the National Port Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Justice, Liberia Maritime Authority, and the Ministry of Agriculture among others.
Participants at the training are drilled through several topics including Fisheries access agreements & arrangements, access agreement types and the typical structure of an access agreement, the interests of African States, and the dominant fishing fleets, their strategies and tactics.
Other topics for discussion during the training include regional co-operation and the minimum terms and conditions of access approach, management of access agreements by Coastal States, and conservation and environmental issues.
Additionally, participants learn about the Law of the Sea Convention, fish stocks agreement, FAO Compliance Agreement, FAO Port State Measures Agreement, FAO Code of Conduct, the Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) treaties and other instruments are other topics under discussion.