Points out serious flaws that will make practical implementation hard to manage
An international fisheries expert interviewed by the Daily Observer says that that the controversial fisheries agreement signed between Liberia and Senegal a month ago contains several flaws and, if for any reason endorsed by the Liberian government, coastal communities who have access to recovering fish stock will experience a serious food insecurity problems in the future.
The Senegalese fisheries agreement, which is not yet finalized by the government of Liberia, has come under serious criticism by the public since its inception, with many sector stakeholders complaining that it not in the interest of the country.
Stephen Akester, an independent fisheries consultant, said, “while it is true that the country needs assistance to develop its fisheries sector and methods have been proposed and the theory for assistance from a neighboring state could be an attraction, however, Senegal has a serious problem of overfishing and is looking to take advantage of the stock conservation work carried out by Liberia in recent years.”
He said the protocol signed by the Liberian and Senegalese fisheries authorities has serious flaws in its construction so that practical implementation will be hard to manage.
“The major concern is the wellbeing of the coastal communities who are having access to recovered fish stocks, giving some protection from the current economic downturn the rest of the country is experiencing.
Regarding the development of a semi industrial fishery in Liberia, he said ownership has long been advocated and remains the best option.
“There is nothing more wonderful than a sustainable fishery using an annually renewing resource, it is not an extractive industry that ends in nothing like mining; it does not take the application that agriculture or livestock require and, if correctly managed, brings better benefits each year. Liberia is uniquely positioned in West Africa to achieve the status of a sustainable fishery. This agreement, if implemented, prejudices that option,” he said.
Below is a portion of the fisheries protocol with comments from our fisheries expert that address artisanal and semi-industrial as well as industrial fishing operators.
Article 2: Conditions for the practice of artisanal and semi-industrial fishing
Protocol: In the framework of this Protocol the definition of artisanal and semi-industrial fishing vessels are: “Artisanal fishing vessel” means any fishing vessel, canoe or un-decked vessel of not more than fifteen (15) meters, which is motorized or un-motorized, powered by an outboard or inboard engine of not more than 40 horsepower, sails or paddles, and is used for artisanal fishing.
Expert’s comment: Senegal Niominka fishermen took all the fish from Guinea Bissau by taking their canoes on mother vessels and launching them in Bijagos. If they do the same thing in Liberia they will be very hard to control.
Protocol: “Semi-industrial fishing vessel” means a “decked or undecked fishing vessel” with a length overall of not more than 20 meters, less than 50 GRT and powered by engines between 40HP and 100HP, or any powered vessel below 40HP that is fitted with mechanical fishing equipment and “semi-industrial fishing” have a corresponding meaning.
Expert’s Comment: Any Senegalese pirogue that makes the journey from Senegal is expected to have an engine greater than 40 HP making it semi industrial under the law, therefore not able to fish inside 6 miles. This would be impossible for the Senegalese.
Protocol: Artisanal and Semi-industrial fishing in the waters under jurisdiction in Liberia should be allowed under the same conditions as its nationals.
Expert’s Comment: Poor language but means visiting Senegalese will be bound by Liberian fisheries regulations. Robertsport is administered by its Core Management Association (CMA) and under its legal constitution could refuse entry to Senegal fishermen. That will be interesting.
Protocol: Artisanal and Semi-industrial fishing should be exercised by fishermen who fulfilled conditions laid down in this Protocol and in accordance with the regulations in force in Liberia.
Expert’s Comment: This should exclude Senegal fishermen from fishing inside 6 miles, but will need enforcement; Ship-owners must produce all documents justifying the technical characteristics of the vessels, in particular the duly authenticated certificate of nationality.
Article 3.- Conditions for the practice of industrial fishing
Protocol: Ship-owners must produce all documents justifying the technical characteristics of the vessels, in particular the duly authenticated certificate of nationality.
Expert’s Comment: Essential for measurement of gross tonnage (GRT).
Protocol: Vessels fishing under this Protocol shall be obliged to take on board an observer to fill in the fishing logbook and to transmit the catch statistics, in accordance with the instructions of the competent authority of Liberia. In the case of tuna vessels, 15 percent of Liberian observer coverage shall apply, where practical.
Expert’s Comment: No mention of payment for the observer. Under this provision, Liberia is responsible for the salaries of observers, they should be financed by foreign operators paying in to a NaFAA observer fund.
Protocol: Vessels operating under this Protocol, in waters under the jurisdiction of Liberia, shall be equipped with a satellite-based detection system to ensure automatic and continuous communication of their positions, to the competent authority of Liberia.
Expert’s Comment: Good, needs to specify that all associated costs are to the vessel operator — transponder fitting and air time payment.