Liberia: 'Your Safety Is of Paramount Importance,' President Weah Tells Fishermen



President George Weah has acknowledged the danger fishermen continue to endure in their fishing trade, describing the fishing vocation as a dangerous undertaking.

The President’s remarks came as he launched the Free Marine Life Jackets Initiative by the National Fishery and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA). He distributed life-saving vests to hundreds of fishermen during the occasion.

“We are aware that fishing is one of the most risky jobs anywhere around the world,” Weah said as he reiterated his government’s commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of fishermen nationwide. “This is why we see this as a very important initiative because the safety and well-being of Liberian fishermen is of paramount importance and concern to us.”

Weah added that the fishing sector is a critical one, not just for its economic rewards to the government, but also to the nation and the welfare of the citizens who squarely rely on it to support their families.

“I have been informed that due to climate change’s which often leads to the scarcity of fish, our artisanal fishermen have to go further in deep sea with their dug-outs without navigational skills and safety jackets,” he said, bemoaning the harsh conditions fishermen are exposed to. According to him, that is why he mandated NaFAA and Liberia Maritime Authority to ensure that safety materials and other tools are provided to fishermen from time to time.

The President stressed that the launch of the Free Marine Life Jackets Project is geared towards providing the necessary safety and protective mechanisms for fishermen. He also admonished fishermen to ensure that the jackets distributed to them are used for the intended purpose and are handled with the utmost care.

In remarks, the Director General of NaFAA, Emma Metieh Glassco, noted that never in the history of Liberia has the fisheries sector, especially the local fisher folks, ever gotten a high level of support and attention from a sitting government. 

“Today, we have been able to acquire concessions loans signed under your signature into law at an amount of $60M, geared towards the development of the fisheries sector to address the infrastructure gaps that have undermined the growth of this sector; to mention a few, such as the construction of fishing Ports and landing, processing and storing facilities,” Glassco said.

According to NaFAA, from 2019 to 2022, over 209 deaths have been recorded among fishermen, with 2019 recording the highest number with 84 deaths. 

The deaths, NaFAA noted, resulted from 606 sea accidents recorded, with Grand Bassa reporting the highest number of 112 accidents and Montserrado reporting 108 incidents.

NaFAA noted that reports have shown that casualties at sea are mostly due to the lack of safety equipment or gear such as life jackets, especially for the artisanal fishermen. 

Recounting Weah’s intervention, Glassco added that it was through the CDC government, that the Libeiran seafarers’s union got their training to become international seafarers.

“Never in the history of Liberia have they gotten so many subsidies such as nets, fish handling and processing equipment (solar freezers, cutting knives, tables, cellophane boxes), outboard engines as well as the transition from Canoes to fiberglass boats,” she said.

Meanwhile, Glassco has assured the President that with the mandate, her administration at NaFAA will effectively implement the mass distribution of the jackets to all local fishermen leadership across Liberia, stating that every fisherman will benefit.