Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone have begun implementing a US$500,000 project aimed at achieving the sustainable development goals (SDG) #1 (no poverty), #2 (zero hunger), #8 (decent work and economic growth, #10 (reduced inequalities), #13 (climate action) and #14 (life below water). The project, known as the “2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures and the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries for Sustainable Fisheries and Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea”, officially runs from April 2019 through March 31, 2020.
Delivering the official statement declaring the start of the project on Friday, June 28, 2019, the Acting Director General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority called on all fisheries international partners, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to help enable Liberia effectively and adequately combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities which, he said, has caused the country huge losses in revenues.
Acting Director General Augustine M. Manoballah said now is the time that “Liberia needs the collective efforts and support of its international partners to build the requisite capacity needed to combat IUU fishing, which has crippled the country’s economy, leaving its people in a state of poverty”.
Manoballah stressed that “illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is being associated with national and transnational organized criminal activities and it presents one of the major maritime security issues”.
The Acting Director of the National fisheries and Aquaculture Authority said IUU affects global economy by the loss of US$23 billion annually and one of the most affected regions is West Africa, which has lost up to US$2.5 billion from 2010 -2016 in six countries including Liberia. Liberia, he noted, lost approximately US$70 million during the same period.
He noted that IUU threatens fisheries resources and marine ecosystems and undermines national and regional efforts to manage sustainably and conserve marine biodiversity.
Speaking further Manoballah indicated that “IUU fishing severely affects coastal and small island developing states that are heavily dependent on fisheries for national economics, employment, people’s livelihoods, food security and the environment”.
He recalled that, at the “60th session in Rome, Italy November 18-23, 2009, the FAO conference approved the 2009 Agreement on the Port State Measures (the PSMA) to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing, coupled with the effective implementation of the complementary international instruments and regional mechanisms, which provides for a potent and cost effective global framework to combat IUU fishing”.
As a key milestone leading up to the launch of the 2009 FAO PSMA and the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries for Sustainable Fisheries and Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea project, Liberia has deposited its instrument of accession to the PSMA to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal unreported and unregulated fishing. Manoballah disclosed that the PSMA came into force in Liberia on the 21 June 2019, thus making Liberia the 61st party to have ratified the agreement.
Providing additional historicity on the PSMA agreement, Acting Director General Manoballah said Liberia is the eighth country from the 12 coastal countries of West Africa to have ratified the PSMA, clearly demonstrating the region’s increased commitment and efforts to block fish caught from IUU fishing from being landed at its ports, and reaching national and international markets.
He admitted that Liberia’s lack the capacity to enforce port state measures and the provision of complementary international instruments and regional mechanisms.
He also said that the proposed intervention will include support to implementation of voluntary guidelines for securing small scale fisheries in the context of food security and poverty eradication for the government, fisheries workers, private sector, civil society organizations among others.
Making special remarks earlier, the Country Representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, Mariatou Njie, says her organization “remains committed to working closely with the government of Liberia and all relevant stakeholders in the agriculture, fisheries and other natural resources sectors for the attainment of its desired development goals”.
Madam Njie said the project is in line with the FAO-Liberia Country program framework priority area B, which involves production, productivity and competitiveness.
Commending Liberia for its farsightedness in signing up to the agreement, the FAO Representative Madam Njie said despite the effort, Liberia has what she termed as “limited capacity to fully enforce port state measures and the provisions of complementary international and regional mechanisms.
According to her, shortcomings in national policies, laws and by-laws, limited institutional and operational capacities, particularly with regard to monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) system; and poor cooperation and coordination nationally, among others, are specific capacity gaps.
At the same time, Madam Njie disclosed that the goal of the project is to build the capacity of the governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone to improve sustainability of marine fisheries by preventing, deterring and eliminating IUU fishing and enhance maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Meanwhile, the launch brought together representatives from several government line ministries and agencies, as well as fisheries stakeholder organizations including the ministries of National Defense, Commerce, Justice, Agriculture, the National Port Authority, Liberia Maritime Authority, Liberia National police, Liberia Immigration service, National Public Health Institute, Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Justice Foundation, Co-management Association and the Liberia Artisanal fishermen Association.