Following two days of protest by several members of the Liberian Seamen’s Union, the Director General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), Mrs. Emma Metieh Glassco, has clarified why the Government of Liberia (GOL) has not licensed the six controversial Chinese fishing vessels to operate in the country’s territorial waters.
The controversial fishing vessels are currently at the Bong Mines fishing pier on the Bushrod Island in Monrovia.
Recently aggrieved members of the Liberian Seamen Union angrily stormed the offices of the NaFAA on Bushrod Island to demand the licensing of the six Chinese Super trawlers in an attempt to provide them job opportunities.
The angry Seamen’s Union members, who denied NaFAA’s staff from entering their offices, alleged that the authorities of NaFAA have decided to deny the six vessels operations on Liberian waters. Licensing them, they said could take them from their current state of joblessness and restore their families’ livelihoods.
However, according to Madam Glassco, the NaFAA cannot provide licenses for the vessels due to some technical reasons that will have to be addressed adequately before their registrations and subsequent licenses to fish in Liberian waters can be issued.
The protesters seamen have claimed that after obtaining international certified training from the Regional Maritime University facilitated by the Liberian government through NaFAA, they have been denied opportunities to board European and other international tuna vessels fishing across the world.
“The six gigantic vessels that came to Liberia have larger fishing capacities and such vessels have never come to Liberia to fish. Also, their authorization from their flag state, which is the People’s Republic of China, has expired. China as a flag state is needed to issue those vessels authorization to enable the vessels fish beyond China’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) or in distance waters,” she recently informed the aggrieved seamen.
She added that Liberia, through NaFAA, “has not received any authorization from the flag state, except a transit document from Mozambique to Liberia. However, that expired since June 26, 2020.”
According to her under these circumstances, the country cannot issue licenses to those vessels when the flag state has not authorized the vessels to operate on distance waters, adding that it will be a breach of international protocols.
The NaFAA Boss indicated that, now that Liberia is a member of United Nations Port State Measures Agreement to deter and eliminate Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing, the country “also stands to be red carded as a non-compliant country if these giant trawlers which we have not seen before are licensed without proper due diligence.”
Mrs. Glassco recalled that Liberia is currently nursing a yellow card issued by the European Union and all efforts are being put in place to lift the yellow card, which Liberia got as a result of the illegal fishing activities during the previous government administration. Therefore, the licensing of these six Super Trawlers has to be in line with the United Nations Fish Stock Agreement, meaning licensing of additional vessels have to be based on the availability of resources. Liberia has secured funding to conduct a comprehensive stock assessment that may allow us license additional trawlers or even reducing the current licensed vessels.
She further noted that most of the vessels operating in Liberian waters are not entering European Union ports due to the current yellow card issue. The NaFAA boss explained that the yellow card placed on Liberia is directly affecting the fisheries and Maritime Authorities. This, she said, is having negative effects on the Liberian economy.
“Liberia is the second largest open registry in the world and if cautions are not considered by this government through NaFAA, it could degenerate downward to the least position in the world because of the yellow card issued by the European Union,” she explained.
However, she said there exist possibilities for Liberian Seamen to board other international fishing vessels despite the lack of fishing a pier to contain bigger fishing vessels. She disclosed that six members of the Liberian seamen union will shortly depart Liberia for Ghana to board two international fishing vessels licensed by her entity.
Given the current status of the six Chinese fishing vessels, she continued, NaFAA cannot issue them licenses because this might result to a red card from the EU, which could hamper chances of operating the entire national fisheries entity and later end the aspirations of the local seamen.
Moreover, she indicated that as far as those vessels are concerned, Liberia cannot go contrary to Chapter 10 of the 2019 Fisheries and Aquaculture Management and Development Law and any international Laws or protocols because it risks red card from EU and this will also hamper the market, repelling international vessels from operating in Liberian waters.
She concluded by saying discussions will continue with members of the Liberian Seamen’s Union to have them understand the decision government is taking through NaFAA, as issuing vessels fishing licenses has to do with technical procedures and adherence to international protocols.