Mr. Alfred N. Kawrel, president of the Liberian Artisanal Fishermen Association (LAFA), Inc., has called on the Government of Liberia and prominent Liberian citizens to support the Fishery Association of Liberia.
He said fishermen across the country have continued to face harassment at the hands of the Coast Guard during their various fishing expeditions in Liberia’s territorial waters.
Mr. Kawrel stated that at times, the Guards take the fish from the fishermen without giving any concrete reason.
“This is bad and it has to stop. These people should be helping us; not harassing us. That is one of the reasons we need more support. If we are supported by government and allowed to express our grievances through the proper channels, then the Coast Guard would not misbehave towards us”, he averred.
Mr. Kawrel explained since the organization of LAFA in 2010, fishermen have been playing major role in the agricultural and economic sectors of the Country.
He said the public depend on fishermen to provide the nation’s main source of protein. Without that protein provided by fish, the workforce would not have enough energy to contribute to towards the nation’s goals.
“We are major contributors to the agricultural sector. If we are treated unfairly, then the sector would become paralyzed because of the lack of fish in the Liberian market. We all know what that means to Liberian society,” he stated bluntly.
Mr. Kawrel made these statements on Thursday in West Point when the LAFA held a meeting with its members on the challenges being faced by fishermen on a daily basis.
“Our union is calling on the Bureau of National Fisheries and Ministry of Agriculture to reduce the six Nautical Mile (6NM) allowed to fishing vessels in Liberian territorial waters,” he continued.
“We are not satisfied with this,” he said, adding “That is why we are asking that it be reduced to 4. It is not safe for fishermen and we are asking authorities to reconsider their decision.”
Mr. Kawrel explained that if the distance was reduced, foreign vessels would have no excuse to enter the Insure Exclusive Zone and harm Liberian fishermen.
The LAFA president also addressed the issue of not using rubber nets, saying “we know it is dangerous to use rubber nets but we ask that the Ministry of Agriculture please give us time to meet up with regulations as we do not have money now the buy the real nets at the moment.”
He furthered announced that in November 2014, LAFA would be hosting their World Fisheries Day program, something he described as an opportunity for Liberian Fishermen to network and share ideas with their international counterparts.
“This celebration is important because it offers us the opportunity to meet fishermen from other countries. That is why I will urge all fishermen on Liberian soil to take part,” he concluded.
Most of the fishes caught by the fishermen are consumed right here in Liberia.