President Sirleaf Underscores Sound Management
Several officials of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program funded by the World Bank led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf over the weekend dedicated US2.8 million dollars fish preservation facilities in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County.
Prior to the dedication of the facilities, officials of WARFP Liberia told the Daily Observer the vital fisheries project started in March 2014, aimed at improving the socioeconomic conditions of artisanal fishermen and women in that part of the country.
The WARFP Liberia officials explained that the fisheries facilities, named the Robertsport Fish Landing Cluster (RFLC), has several preservation facilities that will enhance the efficient and profitable management of fish for the Liberian markets.
Speaking at the dedication ceremony in Robertsport City, President Sirleaf underscored the need for the management of the facilities to be placed in the hands of sound managers that would generate productivity, sustainability and efficiency.
The Liberian leader lauded the intervention of the World Bank, WARFP Liberia officials, Liberia Maritime Authority and National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority for the farsighted initiative that would be great benefits to the fishing community.
In response to the Robertsport highway challenges, President Sirleaf disclosed plans for rehabilitation work on the deplorable road by next month (December 2017).
She also assured coastal fishing communities in Liberia that efforts aimed at carrying out similar viable projects will be earmarked in order to improve the livelihoods of Liberian fishermen and women.
In remarks, World Bank Liberia Country Manager Ms. Larisa Leschenko noted that artisanal fishery provides means of livelihood to about 33,000 fulltime fishers and processors in the coastal counties.
The World Bank official added that Liberian participation is about 80% with females accounting for about 60% of the work force who supply fish to the consuming public in either fresh, smoked or fermented form.
She also explained that small scale sector supplies more than 80% of the fish landed by domestic fleets and most of the fish is landed at one of the 130 landing sites spread along the coast.
Ms. Leschenko also noted that such are devoid of needed infrastructures to preserve fish quality for high value markets.
The World Bank Country Manager said, although fish accounts for about 65% of the animal protein intake per capita, consumption in Liberia stands at 4.33kg per year and considered to be low in comparison to the global average of about 16kg per year.
She disclosed that this low level can be attributed to high post-harvest losses along the fish value chain, thus making fish less available to the consuming public and loss of revenue for the communities.
Ms. Leschenko intimated that this is particularly evident in Robertsport City were more than 30% of the catch is damaged during the peak fishing season due to lack of preservation and processing capacity.
“The World Bank in support of the WARFP provided the needed funding to develop the infrastructure at Robertsport to assist increase value added to fish product with a view of improving the fish value chain and trade,” Ms. Leschenko asserted.
Such endeavor, she noted, was intended to capture a greater percentage of the benefit from fisheries to the local economy.
Ms. Leschenko also stated that the World Bank will continue to partner with the Liberian Government to enhance capacity for the operations and management of the facility and sustainable management of the coastal resources for supporting livelihood in coastal communities.
Also, in brief remarks at the Mesurado Industrial Fisheries Terminal in Monrovia, Ms. Leschenko said about 40 years ago, the Mesurado site was the home to one of the most successful industries in Africa with valuable exports to the world market.
She however regretted that during the period of political change, the fish stocks in Liberian waters were being taken by foreign fishing vessels with no respect for Liberia’s sovereignty and the Mesurado Company declined.
She further added that the splendid policies of the Liberian Government, foreign fishing has been brought under control and there is now an international agreement with the European Union for tuna fishing, bringing revenue to the country.
Ms. Leschenko noted that the results these actions supported by the World Bank are wonderful and coastal fishing communities can see much increased fish resources and fish socks in Liberian waters are recovering from the damage of past decades.
“This is a unique situation in the West African region where all other countries are experiencing stock depletion and reducing benefits from their fish resources,” Ms. Leschenko stressed.
Ms. Leschenko reminded Liberians and the world that marine resources under management are renewable and will provide benefits for generations to come, who will bless the foresight of this government to follow this vision enabled by this investment.
She also disclosed that Liberia is indeed an example to West Africa and the continent of what can be achieved through effective fisheries management.
In closing, Ms. Leschenko said this refurbished office for the fisheries administration will provide for sustainable management of these renewable resources that can provide food security, employment and eventually return to export earnings for the economy.
In an over view of the WARFP Liberia program, Coordinator Yevewuo Z. Subah disclosed that ground-breaking ceremony for the initial funding of 1.7 million United States dollars was held in 2010 at Robertsport City, Grand Cape Mount County.
Coordinator Subah disclosed that artisanal fleets exploit mainly small pelagic and shallow water demersal species and the estimated potential for these two fish stocks, from a recent catch based assessment of artisanal landings, are in the order of 79,951 tons and 12,342 tons.
Mr. Subah also explained that annual catch of both pelagic and demersal species has ranged between 7,000 and 15,000 tons, respectively. However, about 30% of this goes to waste due to spoilage from lack of preservation.
In Robertsport, he noted that this is evident by the presence of “fish mass graves” and stench of decomposing fish around the community during the peak season.
Against this back drop, Mr. Subah noted that the government of Liberia with the objective to increase the contribution of marine fish resources to the local economies and the benefits to Liberia from the marine fish resources, by increasing the share of the value-added products captured in her waters.
“The Government of Liberia in partnership with support partners decided to establish the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program in Liberia, with financial and technical support from the World Bank Group, fish landing site clusters to have basic infrastructure for receiving and processing fish that would enhance national and international competitiveness in the fish commodity trade,” Mr. Subah indicated.
Mr. Subah stated that land (5.1 Acres) for the project was granted by the County in 2010, followed by the environmental safe guard processes in 2011 and design drawings. Construction of the pilot landing site, the Robertsport fish landing cluster, began in March 2014 with the ground breaking and site possession by the contractors, Top International Engineering and Phoenicia Architecture Company (PAC) at an initial cost of US$1.7 million International Development Association (IDA) funding.
For is part, Deputy Commissioner of Maritime Authority Charles Gono noted that in April of this year, the Liberia Maritime Authority, under the guidance and stewardship of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was charged with the supervision of the Bureau of National Fisheries (BNF) now the Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority.
He also explained that a new strategic direction was designed, intended to ensure that Liberians benefit from their fisheries resources while adhering to all conservation and sustainable management standards. This new strategic direction is also intended to ensure job creation for Liberians within the fisheries sector while creating a conducive environment for direct foreign investment in the sector.