Monrovia – Plenary of the House of Senate and Representatives have taken separate decisions on a communication sent to them by the Liberia Artisanal Fishermen Association.
Report by Henry Karmo – [email protected]
One House (Representatives) mandated its leadership to take charge of the matter why the other (senate) mandated its committee on lands, Mines Energy and agriculture to conduct committee hearing on the matter.
Recently President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf passed executive order 84 allow industrial vessels greater access to fish in its coastal waters. Under a new Executive Order, the government plans to halve its Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ), currently reserved for artisanal fishermen, reducing it from six nautical miles to just three.
This will allow industrial vessels, including trawlers, to fish much closer to the shore. It is estimated that about 65% of Liberia’s animal protein comes from the fishing sector; much of it from artisanal fleets.
Reducing the exclusion zone would see an almost inevitable rise of competition from foreign industrial vessels fishing in coastal waters, and could put the livelihoods of the 33,000 people who rely on this industry at risk.
As victims of the decision the Artisanal Fishermen Association wrote plenary of Both Houses (Senate) and Representatives seeking their intervention in maintaining the six nautical miles because according to them in their communication the decision has the propensity to create serious hardship on the already poor and struggling artisanal fishermen.
“Moreover with respect to the 2010 fisheries regulation that brought the West Africa Regional Fisheries project (WARFP) to Liberia, the executive order undermines Government commitment to the next five years of the WARFP project,” the communication stated.
In 2010, the fisheries regulation was approved and gazette to regulate the sector and to restrict. Consultative meetings were held with stakeholders from various institutions including the WARFP and the international communities participated in that meeting which brought to being the fisheries regulation
Executive Order No. 84 Pertaining to the Management of Liberia Fishery Resources established that the Maritime Authority is granted full and complete supervisory, oversight and fiscal authority of the Bureau of National Fisheries and that the Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ) – referred to in the order as the Inshore Exclusive Zone – will be reduced from six nautical miles to three nautical miles.
The 6NM IEZ was introduced by the Government of Liberia in 2010 as part of the country’s Fishing Regulation.
Prior to its introduction, during the 1990’s and 2000’s foreign vessels could fish up to 3NM off the Liberian coastline, often raking the seabed and destroying local ecosystems in the search for high-value commercial species such as yellow croaker, which are found close to shore.
Since 2010, when the exclusion zone was introduced, artisanal fishers in Liberia have reported improved catch, increased incomes, a decrease in conflict with industrial trawlers, a reduction of the loss of equipment and an increase in safety at sea.
According to the Bureau of National Fisheries (BNF), there are approximately 3,300 canoes and more than 11,000 fishers operating from 114 fish landing sites along Liberia’s 579km coastline and about 33,000 people directly dependant on marine fisheries for their employment and income
65% of Liberia’s animal protein comes from the fishing sector according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation and some 80% of the population depends on cheap fish for their main source of protein intake according to the World Food Programme
According to the Global Hunger Index, 31.9% of Liberia’s population is classified as undernourished, while 16% of families are classed as food insecure by the World Food Programme.
The World Food Programme also found that 83% of the population live on less than US$1.25 a day.