National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) Director General Madam Emma Glassco says the lack of scientific data has undermined the performance of Liberia’s fishery sector.
Speaking Friday, 26 January 2024 at the Bong Mines Piere on Bushorld Island, Madam Glassco said scientific data is a critical factor in informing management decisions and attracting potential investment, especially from the private sector.
The event on Friday marked the commissioning of a fish stock assessment and research exercise with scores of international donors in attendance.
She said the launching of the initiative was timely as Liberia seeks to industrialize its fishery sector to provide socio-economic growth to its populations like most of its sister countries.
Madam Glassco described Liberia as a coastal state and a port state which is geographically advantaged with a coastline of 579km and has an enviable history of exporting shellfish such as shrimps, lobsters, and other high value species during its pre-war era, precisely in the 1970s.
“We were exporting these high valued species to international markets such as Japanese, American, and Asian markets,” she said.
However, Madam Glassco noted that since the post-war era, Liberia’s fishing sector has been characterized by subsistence and artisanal fishing activities which yield less returns to the country as compared to other fishing nations.
“This Fish Stock assessment exercise is basically an activity which seeks to collect information on the abundance and distribution of various kinds of fish species within our waters in terms of its commercial value and ecological importance,” the NaFAA boss continued.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, today marks a major achievement of a milestone as we endeavor to collect the requisite data of our marine resources and ensure the sustainable management of these valuable resources,” she noted.
“Our efforts are to guarantee that everything counts including the taxonomy of the fish stock, the breeding ground, the biomass, habitat, and distribution of the stocks across our coastline.”
Glassco noted that NaFAA sees this process as an opportunity to connect the economic viability of the whole chain to human development, improve livelihood opportunities, and maintain healthy fish stock and catches that will support economic development and food security.
She reiterated that data is a key tool to fishery management, noting that it is significant in determining the best fisheries management approach to apply.
Over the years, she said, NaFAA has applied the precautionary approach in managing Liberia’s fish resources, to avoid overfishing. According to her, this gap has limited NaFAA’s ability to engage in full industrial fishing.
“As we kick off this exercise today, I believe that we are a step away from going into full-scale commercialization, depending on the reports from research.”
The NaFAA Director General recalled on 31 January 2023, at the margins of the second session of the High-Level Conference for a scientific, economic, and environmental integration in favor of the Blue Belt Initiative by the Kingdom of Morrocco, the Government of Liberia through the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority and the Kingdom of Morocco through its Ministry of Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forestry signed an MOU for cooperation and the conduct of this Research.
She noted that Liberia was selected through a competitive process by ATLAFCO through funding provided by the Japanese government (the Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation Among African States Bordering the Atlantic Ocean) to form part of the countries selected for the conduct of this comprehensive research assessment; a cost-intensive initiative, with technical support from the Moroccan government through its Research Institute Nationale de Recherche Halieutique (INRH) as well as their technical expertise for accurate reporting and the used of their new state of the art research vessel R/V AL HASSAN AL-MARRAKCHW, which will be commissioned today.
She extolled her counterparts from Morocco, expressing excitement about this generosity from the Moroccan government.