A cross section of Liberians has condemned a recent fishing agreement that was signed between the Senegalese and Liberian governments on January 22, 2019, in Dakar, Senegal.
The agreement, which gives the green light to 300 Senegalese vessels including semi-industrial and artisanal vessels to fish in Liberia’s waters, has come under serious scrutiny by a cross section of Liberians. A political commentator and co-host of ‘The Costa Show’, Henry P. Costa noted that the agreement poses a potential threat to the livelihood of local semi-industrial and artisanal fishermen. He added that local fishermen stand no chance to compete with Senegalese vessels that the agreement covers.
“Our people do not already have the sophistication in term of boats. They are still using canoes made from woods and their catch is low,” said Costa. “So how will our people compete with people who have better equipment as they all would be fishing in the same Inshore Exclusive Zones (IEZ)?”
Poor catch monitoring catch system, limited knowledge on fisheries issues, and reckless fishing practices are factors that Costa believes could harm semi-industrial and artisanal fishing activities in Liberia.
However, government officials at the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority of Liberia (NaFFA) differed with Costa over his claim about the agreement. Augustine M. Manoballah, the deputy managing director at the NaFFA noted that Costa is fixated on making the administration of President George M. Weah’s unpopular. “I must hasten to inform you the readers that Costa is lying big time. As countless others have exposed him for his reckless lies, I will do the same on this subject,” Manoballah wrote in a Facebook post. “Henry Costa has ventured a terrain that he does not know about; so he went about exposing his ignorance.”
Manoballah explained that the agreement between the two countries is yet to be finalised despite its official signing in Darkar by Liberia’s Director of NaFFA, Emma M. Glassco and Senegal’s Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Economy, Oumar Gueye. According to him, the agreement will follow channels of procedures, where it will be attested to by both the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Ministry of Justice.
He said that owners of vessels covered under the agreement will have to meet the standard of domestic and international fishing requirements.
“Signing of the agreement does not automatically transfer licenses to fishing vessels. Vessels owners will have to file their application in line with domestic and international requirements,” said Manoballah.
On January 22, 2019, both the Liberian and Senegalese governments signed a fishery agreement that gives the legal right to 300 Senegalese boats that include both semi-industrial and artisanal boats to fish in Liberia’s waters. The agreement is spread over the period of 5 years renewable.
The agreement with immediate effect from the day of its signatory will specifically allow 100 artisanal fishing boats that are restricted to 60 horse-powers (engine output) and 200 semi-industrial fishing boats that are restricted to horsepower below 100, to fish in the same Inshore Exclusive Zone (IEZ) with Liberian fishermen.
As part of the agreement obligations, Senegal will help Liberia’s semi-industrial and artisanal fishery arm in areas including, human capacity development, fisheries research, valuation and marketing of fishery and aquaculture products, monitoring and surveillance of fisheries, exploitation, and management of marine resources.
Under this agreement, 100 vessels will fish in Liberia’s water annually and the Liberian government will charge classified artisanal US$1,000 as a flat rate and classified semi-industrial vessels will be charged a flat rate, US$1,500 per a year to the Liberian government. The Government of Liberia will collect revenue of US$ 2,000,000 for the first five years of the agreement.
Also, the agreement gives semi-industrial boats the liberty to empty their catch in Senegal while artisanal Senegalese boats will land their catch in Liberia.
Unclear Issues of the agreement
Even though the agreement disclosed that 100 vessels will fish in Liberia’s water annually, the Government of Liberia is yet to disclose the respective number of Senegalese semi-industrial and artisanal boats that make up the 100 vessels.
Also, since the signing of the agreement, NaFFA has failed to disclose the tonnage of catch that the agreement covers despite officials from the entity efforts to condemn claims against the agreement. However, a local newspaper FrontPage Africa has reported that catch tonnage would be 40,000 per year.