NAFAA Liberia Website
February 12, 2019
Written By: Mr. Augustine M. Manoballah
Deputy Director General for Administration
National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority
Few hours ago I read a post from one Henry P. Costa stating that President Weah has given out 300 fishing licenses to 300 large fishing boats from Senegal to in his words “wipe out our fishing reserves as they did with theirs”. He indicated in his post that with the 300 licenses issued, Senegal is expected to harvest about 40,000 tonnes of fish from our waters every year. He also accused the President of giving fishing licenses to Russian and Chinese fishing vessels to deplete our territorial waters, something he said is having a negative effect on our local fishermen. Without reading the Agreement, Henry Costa hastily arrived at those conclusions and made several other assertions. While it is obvious to see this coming from Costa, because of his fruitless venture to make the President and his government unpopular, I must hasten to inform you the readers that Costa is lying big time. Like countless others have exposed Costa for his reckless lies, I will do same on this subject.
Henry Costa ventured in a terrain he has no idea about. And so he went about exposing his ignorance. Thankfully, we are armed with the facts to expose his boldfaced lies.
Firstly, the Agreement with the Senegalese has not been finalized. While it is true the Director General of the National fisheries and Aquaculture Authority of Liberia and her counterpart from Senegal have signed the Agreement, the Agreement has to be attested to by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Ministry of Justice, which is yet to be done. Secondly, signing of the Agreement doesn’t automatically transfer licenses to fishing vessels covered under this Agreement. Fishing vessels owners will have to file their applications in line with domestic and international requirements.
The Agreement is intended to strengthen relations in fisheries and aquaculture between the two countries. The Agreement has a 5-year term with the possibility of renewal. Some of the key areas of cooperation covered in the Agreement are as follow:
§ Exploitation and marketing of living marine resources
§ Valuation and marketing of fisheries and aquaculture products
§ Fisheries research
§ Conservation of the marine and coastal environment
§ Training and capacity building of human resources
§ Fishing communities empowerment and development, etc.
Henry Costa asserted that 300 licenses have been issued to 300 hundred large boats. As I stated earlier, not a single license has been issued under this agreement. And the boats indicated in the Agreement are not all large boats. There are categories of fishing boats, which this Agreement took into consideration. We have the Artisanal Canoes or boats and Semi-Industrial boats. The Artisanal boats are wooden or fiber like canoes of not more than 15 meters in length. Locally, we call them peddling or kru canoes. They can be motorized or un-motorized. When motorized, the capacity of the motor is not more than 40 horsepower. While Semi-Industrial fishing vessels are deck or un-decked vessels with length not more than 20 meters with weight less than 50 Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT). Deck means the hole in the boat is covered to allow people walk over it. Of course un-decked is the opposite of deck. Fishing vessels of this size are powered by engines between 40 horsepower and 100 horsepower. Boats powered by below 40 horsepower but are fitted with mechanical fishing equipment are also classified as Semi-Industrial boats.
The Agreement provides for 100 Artisanal boats and 200 Semi-Industrial boats. Clearly, all three 300 Costa spoke of are not of the same size and capacity. One will ask but why are we allowing Artisanal boats from a foreign country? My response would be, aren’t they already fishing in our waters and some illegally? We already have a lot of these foreign artisanal boats from Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Guinean fishing in our waters. Some are even operating illegally why we have some captured in our Artisanal Fishing Registry. Some of these foreign boats come illegally and are hosted by the very local fishermen and fishing communities. They have been fishing for years. Why our waters haven’t gotten depleted? This Agreement will now ensure that all Artisanal fishing boats coming from Senegal to fish in our waters will not exceed 100 per year and government will get the needed revenues for the exploitation of our fish resources. Interestingly, all the fish those 100 artisanal boats will catch during the year, that is if all 100 come, will be landed in Liberia to supply our local market. Our local artisanal fishermen are charged a flat rate of L$10,000.00 a boat per year. Under this Agreement, the artisanal boats from Senegal will be charged a flat rate of US$1,000.00 per boat per year. This will see increase in our fisheries revenues and curtail illegal fishing which is a benefit for the country.
For the Semi-Industrial fishing boats, which are largely operated by foreign fishermen, the Agreement provides that each boat will be charge a flat rate of US$1,500.00 per year. Boats of this categories are restricted to fish from the 4 Nautical Miles zone and above of our territorial seas. As a bargain, Semi-Industrial boats under this Agreement are not forced to land their fish catch in Liberia. This doesn’t mean they cannot land here. If the facilities are available to allow them to land in Liberia they will be glad to do so. The good news is that the fisheries authority is working with international partners such as Japan, Iceland and the World Bank to ensure we have a functional port that will accommodate those boats and as well allow them process their catches for sale. This will also create jobs as Liberians will be needed to work on those facilities.
The Senegalese Agreement also covered Industrial Fishing vessels. Industrial fishing vessels are those with larger engines and bigger GRTs and fitted with mechanical equipment for fishing. Under this Agreement, the categories of Industrial vessels are as follow:
§ The total capacity of vessels to fish for Shrimp shall not exceed 2000 GRT
§ 5 vessels per year for coastal shrimp trawlers with capacity not exceeding 200 GRT to fish from 4 Nautical Miles and above
§ 4 vessels per year for coastal demersal trawlers with capacity not exceeding 250 GRT to fish from 4 Nautical Miles and above
§ 4 vessels per year for demersal trawlers
§ Total capacity of vessels per year for pelagic fishing not exceeding 2000 GRT
§ 30 vessels per year for Tuna fishing and 10 support vessels
For the industrial vessels, when our fishing ports become operational, they are required to land 40% of their annual catch in Liberia. The 40% will be for supply to our local market. During their application for fishing license, Industrial vessels submit fishing plans in line with our sustainable management program. The fishing plan tells us how much fish you will catch per year and what species of fish will be caught. We also set a limit on the amount of fish a fishing vessel can catch a year and species that are prohibited. In line with the 2010 Fisheries Regulations, industrial fishing vessels are charged 10% on their total annual catch including other administrative fees. Contrary to Costa’s assertion that the country stands to benefit nothing from this Agreement, revenues will be generated and jobs will be created. Under this Agreement, any industrial fishing vessel of 300 GRT or less applying for fishing license will be required to take 3 Liberian seamen for employment. Vessels of 301 GRT and above will be required to take 4 Liberian Seamen for employment.
Henry Costa also grossly misinformed the public that the President also issued huge number of fishing licenses to Russian and Chinese fishing boats. I challenged Costa to provide any record that shows Russian Fishing vessels in our Fishing Vessels Registry. We have no Russian vessel licensed by the Fisheries Authority and have receive no application from any Russian Fishing vessel. But even if we receive one in the future, based on scientific data, we will process same. We have few Chinese fishing boats in our Fishing Vessel Registry. We have also received proposal from a Chinese fishing firm to bring in some Tuna vessels. The technicians are reviewing that proposal and if our stock data show that we can accommodate those vessels we will process them for fishing license.
Finally, let me inform you that Liberia is far better off than all of our neighbors in West Africa because of our fisheries management strategies we have in place. With the support of the World Bank and EU, we manage this sector based on scientific data. We don’t just go about issuing fishing license without understanding our resource capacity and considering the interest of our artisanal fishermen and seamen. I am very confident that if you stand before local fishermen in this country and told them those lies you will get the worse experience in your life. The local fishermen and seamen are testaments of the efforts of this government to improve the local fisheries sector even in the midst of the many challenges. I can boastfully say the Senegalese Agreement, if finalized, will yield maximal results in terms of revenue generation, job creation and fishing communities’ development and empowerment. It will not deplete our waters as it is supported by scientific data. I can also say to you we are still in search of more investors to invest in our fisheries sector. You complained that the government isn’t attracting investors, now the government attracts one, you complain again. There can be no better way to describe you than a “A Boldfaced Liar”
’. Hope this simple explanation will sink in and motivate you to apologize to the public for misinforming them.
Attested: Lewis EB. Konoe
Cell No: 0777201667