The Director-General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFFA), Emma Metieh Glassco has clarified that there are several technical issues associated with licensing of six controversial Chinese fishing vessels that need to be addressed adequately before their registration and subsequent license to fish in Liberian water can be issued.
Several aggrieved members of the Liberian Seamen Union on July 30 and 31, 2020 stormed the offices of NaFFA on Bushrod Island, demanding the licensing of the six Chinese Super trawlers in order to provide them job opportunities. The six vessels are currently at the Bong Mines fishing Pier on Bushrod Island.
The angry seamen alleged that the authorities of NaFAA have decided to deny the six vessels operations on Liberian waters, which they believe would take them from their current state of joblessness and restore their families’ livelihoods.
But providing clarification on the matter, Mrs. Glassco said “the six gigantic vessels that came to Liberia have larger fishing capacities and such vessels have never come to Liberia to fish and worse their authorization from the flag state which is the Peoples Republic of China has expired.” She added, “now China as a flag state needed to issue those vessels authorization to enable the vessels fish beyond China’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) or in distance water.”
Mrs. Glassco also disclosed that Liberia through NaFAA “has not received any authorization from the flag state, except a transit document from Mozambique to Liberia, however, that expired since June 26, 2020.” She noted that under that circumstances, “Liberia cannot issue licenses to those vessels when the flag state has not authorized the vessels to operate on distance waters, it will be a bridge of international protocols.”
She indicated that now that Liberia is a member of the United Nations Port State Measures Agreement to deter and eliminate Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported fishing, it also stands to be red-carded as a non-compliance country if these giant trawlers which we have not seen before are licensed without proper due diligence.
Mrs. Glassco recalled that Liberia is currently nursing a yellow card issued by the European Union and all efforts are being put in place to lift the yellow card which Liberia got as a result of the illegal fishing activities during the former regime. Therefore, the licensing of these six Super Trawlers has to be in line with the United Nation Fish Stock Agreement, meaning licensing of additional vessels have to be based on the availability of resources. Liberia has secured funding to conduct a comprehensive stock assessment that may allow us to license additional trawlers or even reducing the currently licensed vessels.
She noted that most of the vessels operating in Liberian waters are not entering European Union ports due to the current yellow card issue. The NaFAA boss explained that the yellow card placed on Liberia is directly affecting the fisheries and Maritime Authorities, this she said is having negative effects on the Liberian economy.
The Liberian Fisheries Boss further indicated that currently, Liberia is the second largest open registry in the world and if cautions are not considered by this government through NaFAA, Liberia could degenerate downward to the least position in the world because of the yellow card issued by the European Union.
Hon. Glassco however said there exist possibilities for Liberian Seamen to board other international fishing vessels despite the lack of fishing pier to contain bigger fishing vessels. She disclosed that six members of the Liberian seamen union will shortly depart Liberia for Ghana to board two international fishing vessels licensed by NaFAA.
Madam Glassco said given the current status of the six Chinese fishing vessels, the Liberian government through NaFAA cannot issue them licenses because this might result to a red card from the EU which could hamper chances of operating the entire national fisheries entity and later end the aspirations of the local seamen.
Moreover, she indicated that as far as those vessels are concern Liberia cannot go contrary to Chapter 10 of the 2019 Fisheries and Aquaculture Management and Development Law and any international Laws or protocols because it risks red card from EU and this will also hamper the market repelling international vessels from operating in Liberian waters.
She concluded by saying discussions will continue with members of the Liberian Seamen Union to have them understand the decision government is taking through NaFAA as issuing vessels fishing licenses has to do with technical procedures and adherence to international protocols.