The General Secretary of the Liberia Artisanal Fisheries Association (LAFA), Theresa Bayon, has refuted claims by some Liberians that the country stands to benefit from the controversial fisheries agreement recently signed between Liberia and Senegal.
Recently, the head of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Bong County Senator Henry Yallah, expressed delight in the fisheries agreement which was partly signed by the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) in Dakar, Senegal.
Senator Yallah told journalists that, though the agreement is not yet finalized, it would benefit the country in generating more than 10 million United States dollars in revenue over a period of 5 years, as well as contribute to food security by increasing the supply of fish on the market.
Also, local fishing organizations, including United Seamen Union (USU) and the Collaborative Management Association (CMA) have welcomed the fisheries agreement, noting that it will create employment opportunities for many in the sector.
However, Madam Bayon said there is no need for the government to give credence to the agreement because it is in the interest of neither the local fishermen nor the country.
She told the Daily Observer that it would be better for the government to invest more resources in the sector in order to empower local fishermen as a way to create employment in the sector, collect revenues for the country and improve food security.
According to her, any attempt by the government to endorse the fisheries agreement will be detrimental to the future of the country’s fisheries sector.
She said the controversial fisheries agreement states that 100 artisanal fishing vessels from Senegal will operate in the six nautical miles and 200 semi-industrial vessels in 4 nautical miles.
Madam Bayon said such a provision in the agreement contravenes Liberia’s fishery regulations, something she said would deprive local fishermen the opportunity to earn more money.
“The 6 nautical miles belong to local fishermen. Moreover, the 4 nautical miles designated to the semi-industrial vessels are not far from the 6 nautical miles. The agreement is designed to let the Senegalese vessels to exploit the waters to the detriment of the locals. Therefore, we can not agree to such an arrangement as it will surely deprive local fishermen the opportunity to fish and earn enough money to support their families,” she noted.
She further said the fisheries authorities did not involve local fishermen in developing the fisheries agreement,” adding it is against international best practices.
But NaFAA boss, Emma Glassco said the agreement has been in progress at the fisheries sector since 2010.
Madam Bayon maintained that the government must empower local fishermen to ensure proper management of the country’s fisheries resources.
“We do not need additional foreign vessels to explore the waters. The government should build the capacity of fishermen as they have promised. Why can’t they provide sophisticated boats to enable us to compete on the international market?” she asked.
According to her, with funding provided by World Bank, European Union, and other friendly nations, the fisheries sector is gradually transforming.
“We need marine stores where fishermen can buy gears locally. The government must build more infrastructures in the fisheries sector to increase the supply of fish in the markets. This will help the government to raise revenues for the country and increase the supply of fish on the market,” he said.
He said they have begun holding meetings with local fishermen to explain the effects of the controversial fisheries agreement if approved by the Liberian government.