Liberia: Ensuring Safe Fish Handling



— FAO, NaFAA Engage Fisheries Stakeholders

Best safe fish handling management practices still remain a serious challenge in the fisheries sector of Liberia. There is a lack of adequate education among various stakeholders about how to carefully handle fish at sea and in the various marketplaces. Infrastructures and policies are either lacking, limited, or weak to ensure that fish is safe for the consuming public.

Fisheries contribute approximately 10 percent of Liberia’s gross domestic product, and the small-scale fisheries sector employs an estimated 33,000 people. Though still underdeveloped, the government of Liberia has earmarked the sector to improve food and nutrition security. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in collaboration with the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Culture Authority, recently convened a three-day workshop to sensitize or educate Liberian fisheries stakeholders.

The awareness workshop on best practices for safe fish handling ran from Monday, December 17- 21, 2022, in Marshall, Margibi County, bringing together over 30 participants, including fishermen, fishmongers, the fisheries authorities, representatives of Liberia’s Maritime Authority, FAO, members of civil society organizations, and the media.

The recent fisheries workshop is part of the fisheries sector transformation program, with funding from the people and government of Japan and implemented by the FAO in collaboration with NaFAA.

According to FAO, the “Livelihood Empowerment of Women in Small-scale Fisheries During and After COVID 19”, project seeks to ensure food safety issues, the health of the beneficiaries, and the environment through training and the establishment of infrastructures in fisheries communities.

The project is currently being implemented in three coastal counties, including Margibi, Grand Bassa and Montserrado.   

FAO has brought into the country a consultant from Ghana to create awareness among the stakeholders on the need to educate the stakeholders on safe handling of fish.

Speaking during an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer, the Assistant Country Representative of FAO, Octavius Quabo, disclosed that the training is one in a series to be conducted by the fisheries consultant.

According to him, his institution is working to implement a fisheries project for the development of the fisheries sector.

“This is an activity under one of the projects as part of the fisheries sector transformation program in collaboration with NaFAA. The workshop complements improving the livelihoods of women in the targeted fisheries counties. It is meant to educate them and give healthy conditions to work under, through the use of improved fish drying technologies to process the fish they are marketing. The new technology will help minimize the traditional practices of fish preservation, which affect the health of the women,” Quabo explained.

He said under the project, they are constructing improved technology facilities in the fishing communities.

“We are going to give an improved smoke oven to better preserve the fish the women provide on the market. We are completing the construction of a market structure in Banjor and we have sponsored a recent study tour for some of the stakeholders to give them experience that they can replicate,” he added.

According to him, the project came as a result of the challenges women encountered during the COVID pandemic.

However, he mentioned to the Daily Observer that the Japanese government has further invested US$ 2 million dollars to build upon the current interventions.

“The additional funding from the people of Japan will build on the successes of the fisheries sector that can be replicated in the nine coastal counties and to address the improvement of aquaculture production. This will help to improve the lives of people in the fisheries sector,” he added.

According to Quabo, at the end of the workshop the participants will help the Liberian government in making sure that awareness is created about the safe handling of fish.

“All these efforts are intended to prepare the country to begin exporting fish, thereby improving the incomes of those in the fisheries sector to improve the economy,” he stated.

Speaking earlier during the workshop, the Deputy Director for Technical Services at NaFAA, William Y. Boah said that safe fish handling is a major challenge as many fishmongers were still using the traditional method of fish preservation and processing.

“This is to ensure that the knowledge you acquire is transferred to others in the sector. The knowledge should change our behaviors and I hope that you have the knowledge to transfer to others,” he challenged the participants.

Meanwhile, the participants of the workshop have expressed great enthusiasm about the intervention of the FAO and have thanked the government of Japan for the transformation they have undertaken in the fisheries sector through the Liberian government.         

Felicia Garjay, a fishmonger and member of the Collaboration Management Association (CMA) in Grand Bassa County said, “I am very much thankful to FAO and NaFAA for the workshop and the level of development being introduced to transform our lives.”

She said she is working with fishmongers in the fishing communities of Buchanan on the safe handling of fish for the health of the consumers.

“We are trying in our weak way to make sure that fishmongers adhere to the rules of the safe handling of the fish.”

Another fishmonger Babra M. Bassor said, “Many days we use the traditional ways to process our fish and many times we are being advised by doctors that our health is seriously affected. We wholeheartedly appreciate the many new developments intended to bring about changes to our businesses.”