The Director-General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NAFAA), Emma Metieh Glassco has intimated that the construction of industrial landing ports across the coastal counties is important to accommodate industrial vessels already exploiting Liberian waters and to conduct a stock assessment before licensing fishing vessels.
Madam Glassco made the statement when she appeared before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, which has commenced hearings with officials of NAFAA in an effort to discuss issues affecting the sector and carve a way forward for action by the Senate’s Plenary.
The hearing, according to the Senate committee, was also intended to ascertain views from authorities of NAFAA relative to a US$40m loan agreement with the World Bank for the construction of industrial landing ports across some coastal counties, namely: Montserrado, Bassa, Sinoe, Maryland and Grand Kru.
According to Director General Glassco, the US$40 million loan is also intended to conduct a rigorous stock assessment as the issue of lack of data has undermined the fishery sector.
Madam Glassco further stated that the issue of stock assessment requires the hiring of research vessels to determine the types and quantities of marine life in order to be in a better position to issue licenses to industrial vessels wanting to exploit Liberia’s waters.
Director General Glassco informed the Committee that initial stock assessment conducted by her entity has revealed that “Liberian waters are highly rich in scarlet shrimps – the best in the region and one of the best in the world due to its scarcity, high demand and is in commercial quantity beneath our waters.”
She disclosed that Liberian waters are highly rich in coastal shrimps, which is also in huge commercial quantity, according to the initial stock assessment conducted by NAFAA.
According to her, amidst all the prospects of the fishery sector, Liberia has been issued a Yellow Card by the European Union (EU), adding: “In view of this, I (the Director General) have made a plea to the Committee to invite the Ambassador of the EU in Liberia in order to discuss the lifting of such Yellow Card as this will give Liberia access to the European Market, which is the largest fish market in the world.”
However, Madam Glassco informed the Committee that in the coming days, the Japanese Government will be sending a delegation to train Liberian fishermen in the usage of recently donated out boat engines, which will be followed by distribution of the engines to various fishing territories in Liberia.
The Fisheries boss at the same time pleaded with the Senate Committee to speed up the passage of the National Standards Authority Act, which she said has been lying before the Legislature for a very long time.
The passage, she noted, will ensure that Liberia acts in line with several protocols, for which the country is a signatory. Glassco concluded by calling on members of the Committee to prevail upon their colleagues to facilitate the ratification of the US$40 million World Bank loan agreement in order to make way for the construction of industrial landing ports across the country and facilitate the issue of adequate stock assessment in order to gather important data for the licensing of industrial vessels.
Also speaking at the hearing, River Gee County Senator Jonathan Boyecharles Sogbie, a member of the Committee of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, lauded authorities of NAFAA for the level of work done in the sector and encouraged them to see reason to introduce fishing programs in the country’s institutions of learning in order to encourage many young Liberians to specialize in this fast growing industry in the country.
For his part, River Cess County Senator Wellington Geevon Smith, who is also a member of the Committee, admonished authorities of NAFAA not to be complacent, but to do more in expanding fishing programs and support to other fishing counties like River Cess and others. The Committee meanwhile, has also lauded authorities of NAFAA for bringing the fishery sector to prominence in the Country and cautioned them not to be complacent as there are so many social benefits attached to the sector for the development of the Country.
At the hearings, the Chairman of the Committee, Margibi County Senator Jim Tornonlah, stressed the issue of the empowerment of Liberians to take charge of the fisheries sector and assured authorities of NAFAA that the US$40 million loan agreement with the World Bank will be discussed by the Senate Plenary in the best interest of the Country.