Author : Menhwon wuor, Leslie Moban
Site of publication: science direct
Type of publication: Article
Date of publication: December 2022
Marine resources are recognized as having an integral role in the social and economic sustainability of coastal nations, as illustrated through SDG14 devoted to ‘life below water’ and the increasing prominence globally of rhetoric around the ‘blue economy. Yet it is also recognized that coastal societies in the tropics are at particular risk under a changing climate, and that investments across a breadth of areas are required to enhance resilience.
Liberia is one such less wealthy nation which has significant marine resource potential, yet faces multiple challenges to developing fisheries in a way that benefits the livelihoods of people in the country. Given Liberia’s position as a post-conflict state and new democracy, which is listed among the Least Developed Countries on the DAC list, understanding the requirements to develop fisheries in Liberia may yield valuable insights for other low-income nations facing complex geopolitical pressures yet seeking to develop marine resources in the national interest.
Context: current status of fisheries in Liberia
Available data points to two critical challenges facing Liberian fisheries. On one hand, per capita fish consumption is among the lowest in west Africa, at 11.42 kg per capita annually. Fish provides approximately 15 % of Liberia’s animal protein supply, and is a primary source of protein as well as the second most-purchased food commodity.
Yet between 2014 and 2020, Liberia imported 33,116 tons of fish annually on average, compared to an average annual export of 123 tones. As such, whilst fish is an important source of nutrition in the Liberian diet, per capita fish consumption is low and the country is a net importer of fish despite its long coastline.
Policy and legislation
Liberia has a suite of policies, regulations and institutions relating to fisheries and marine resources. Fishing in Liberia has been underpinned by the 2010 Regulations relating to fisheries, fishing and related activities, for the marine fisheries sector in the Republic of Liberia. The National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority was established in 2017, through the Act to Amend Title 23, Natural Resources Law, Liberian Codes Revised by Repealing Subchapter B, Fish Resources and to Amend Title 30, Public Authorities Law to Create the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority.
Moreover, another potential development – beside the strengthening of enforcement mechanisms – which may support the regulation of Liberian fisheries would be an independent body overseeing laws and their implementation. However, as the following sub-sections will now outline, issues relating to infrastructure and human resources may be bigger barriers to the development of fisheries in Liberia than the laws and policies themselves.
Technical and infrastructural requirements
Again, technical and infrastructural requirements can be divided into two broad categories, which are not mutually exclusive: those necessary to support smaller-scale artisanal fisheries and support the livelihoods of Liberians; and those necessary to grow a larger-scale commercial fisheries sector capable of bringing economic benefit. The Liberian fisheries sector can be divided into several sub-sectors: industrial; semi-artisanal; and artisanal.
For artisanal fisheries and livelihood support, there is a need to reduce the environmental impact of the smaller canoes used for artisanal and semi-artisanal fisheries on the marine environment through newer environmentally friendly or nylon nets, and lower-emission engines with a network of refueling stations. The canoes used for artisanal fisheries can also go missing in the ocean, so better communications (radios) and also lifejackets and vests are required to enhance safety for artisanal fishers.
At the same time, however, the provision of better port infrastructure alone may be insufficient to bring substantial tuna catches to Liberia, or indeed to support the sustainability of livelihoods for the Liberian people. As outlined in Section 4.1., efforts to land tuna catches legitimately within Liberia ought to be supported by building capacity in monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to counter IUU fishing.
Moreover, efforts to promote industrial-scale fishing which may deliver commercial or national-scale profit must be set against measures to protect and support smaller-scale coastal fisheries, which have a critical role in food security and livelihood sustainability for Liberian people.
Financing requirements and international cooperation
Liberia already receives international financing in support of fisheries development on a piecemeal basis. For instance, a grant of USD 1.6 million from Japan supported the upgrading of engines on artisanal canoes; and grants in the region of USD 40 million have previously been provided by the European Union. However, such investments ought to be supported by donors following up to ensure funding is used for the intended purpose.
Participation in international agreements and fora also provides a pathway to developing enforcement capability and improving fisheries techniques and equipment in Liberia. As one example, Liberia participates in both the Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF) and the Fishery Committee of the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC), regional measures which have been argued to have some effect in combatting illegal fishing.