Traditional fishermen are Liberians who are engaged in small scale fishing in communities located along the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. They depend on the practice as a trade as well as to feed their families, and 1,210 of them want support from the Liberian government and other public and non-governmental organizations in the sector.
According to Mr. Wle Wle Kofa, chairman of the Traditional Fishermen Association of Liberia, (TFAL), members from West Point to New Kru Town and other areas that border the Atlantic Ocean are in need of material support.
“Our members are hard hit by the coastal erosion that has affected West Point, New Kru Town, Colonel West and Popo Beach and I think it is about time the government and organizations in the sector turn to support our members,” Mr. Kofa said in an interview yesterday in Monrovia.
He said TFAL has members from Cape Palmas, Maryland County to Monrovia, Montserrado County and they all suffer from the increasing coastal erosion that has affected Liberia in the last couple of years.
“Our members live in poor and extremely poor communities and their children hardly get better education,” Kofa said, adding, “I think this sector has been ignored for a long time and it deserves some attention by the government and non-government organizations in the sector.”
Kofa explained that traditional Liberian fishermen use smaller canoes for their work hence are unable to raise themselves above the poverty line. As a result their children suffer greatly, said Kofa.
“Many times male children of fishermen follow their fathers to do the very job that has kept them down for so long,” he said, adding that, “without financial support that could help them purchase bigger canoes for large catches, the situation remains the same year after year.”
The females, he said, to a large extent end up with children at an early age, “and this is not good for the country. The women later get involved in drying and selling fish at the various markets and the cycle continues.”
Kofa made an appeal to the Liberian government not to forget the sector and those who spend their lives making a living in the only trade they know. “This particular industry has been practiced by our people from time immemorial and so we must find means to grow it.”
Mrs. Betty Nyanti, a mother of eight, is the head of women whose husbands engage in small scale fishing in Colonel West. “I have been able to educate seven of my kids and only the 8th child followed his father to become a fisherman,” she said, “it’s been hard but I am thankful that my husband Stephen has been of great help.”
She said her husband is sometimes fortunate to make a huge catch but “very often we sell some and use some for the family.” She admitted it is a hand to mouth occupation because at times, “Stephen returns with nothing.” She said the majority of her women friends have not been lucky.
“Many children, particularly the women, don’t really get good education and they follow their mothers to sell in the market,” she said. She hoped the sector can be improved.
Many Liberians residing in coastal areas of the country are involved in small scale fishing from Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Grand Kru, Sinoe, Maryland and Montserrado counties, for what Mr. Kofa describes as ‘fishing to survive,’ and are in need of government and partners’ support to raise their occupation to a better level.