The United Seamen Post and General Workers Union fisheries (USPGWU) section has embraced President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Executive Order #84, despite the public’s increasing mixed reactions.
On Wednesday the president of the fishery section, Samuel Siaffa, said Executive Order #84, which seeks to revitalize the fishery industry, will create more jobs and also put the industry on the global map again.
At a press conference yesterday at the Union’s office in Monrovia, Siaffa said “We commend the President for the decision to revitalize the fishery industry. This has been our hope for the past seven years and we are certain that the decision will create more jobs for all fishermen in the nation including the artisanal fishermen.”
He said under the three nautical miles provision there are possibilities that more fishes at affordable prices would flow into the local market and noted that vessels on Liberian waters have suffered great losses under the six nautical miles regulation which made industrial fishermen jobless for the last seven years.
“Under the six nautical miles there were one hundred vessels and 58% of those vessels were illegally fishing in our territorial waters below the six nautical miles while 42% of legal vessels were catching less fish because of the six nautical miles regulation,” he said.
“Since the introduction of the six nautical miles by the West African Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP), many vessels left our waters because they complained that their catches were very low and they were spending more money to keep their vessels on sea.
“The constraint of those legal vessels left many industrial fishermen without jobs and fishery mongers, especially women, were buying imported fish at a very high price,” Siaffa said.
He called on the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA), the new supervisory arm of the National Fisheries Bureau, to revisit fisheries laws and strengthen its security system.
Responding to the ongoing discussion that artisanal fishermen would be victims because of Executive Order #84, Siaffa said industrial fisheries will not affect artisanal fisheries, under the three nautical miles regulation.
“As leader of the group we want to clarify that industrial fisheries will no way interfere with artisanal fishermen’s operations under the three nautical miles regulation.
“Artisanal fishermen, especially canoes without motors, operate between one and two miles where floating fishes are found which is below the three nautical miles,” he said.
He added: “Moreover, industrial fisheries throw nets that are at least three miles deep in the sea, so there is no way artisanal fishermen’s activities will be victims of this opportunity”
Meanwhile, Mr. Freeman Gueh, President General of the United Seamen Post and General Workers Union, accused those who are against the President’s Order for politicizing what he described as the president’s good intentions.
“Those who do not know a thing about fisheries should not politicize it because Executive Order #84 shows the good intention of the president for the sector,” he said. “They should not stir up dispute among the two fishery groups because we are all the same.”
Since May 2, 2017, Executive Order #84 has gained the attention of many stakeholders, including, environmental organizations, artisanal fishermen, and prominent citizens, most recently Blamo Nelson, former Senator of Grand Kru County.
It was also reported that a group claiming to represent more than 350,000 local fishermen and women from nine coastal counties of Liberia said Executive Order #84 is not in their interest.
“This decision has the propensity to create serious hardship on the already poor and struggling artisanal (small scale) fishermen,” stated the letter under the signatures of Mr. Jerry N. Blamo, the Secretary General, and President Nyantee Sleh Sr.
However, the government said the decision is necessary because the fishery resources of Liberia have been underutilized for over a decade and the government intends to encourage investment in the sector to ensure the sustainable development and utilization of its natural resources that may benefit those in the sector.
It said in furtherance of its intention to start sustainably utilizing its fishery resources, the government has recognized that the Bureau of National Fisheries, a unit under the Ministry of Agriculture, needs to be granted an autonomous status to enable it meet up with the demands of the fishing industry, and reduce the government’s bureaucracy around the process of obtaining a fishing license.