Liberia turns away Chinese sixEmma Metieh Glassco, Director General of Liberia’s National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority. Photo: NaFAA

Six trawlers from China that arrived in Monrovia in June have been refused permission to fish in Liberian waters.

On arrival, applications were made for the six trawlers to operate in Liberian waters, immediately sparking concerns among both coastal fishermen and NGOs that these vessels would have serious effects on Liberia’s fisheries. 80% of Liberia’s population is dependent on fish for essential dietary protein, and the sector provides full- or part-time employment for 37,000 people.

The Director-General of the Liberian National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority Emma Metieh Glassco confirmed that Liberia would not grant access to the Chinese vessels, describing the decision as “a new phase in the development of the fisheries sector and positive step towards promoting legal and sustainable fishing in Liberia, and West Africa more broadly.”

The decision to not grant these licenses may mark a turning point in efforts by West African countries in excluding foreign fishing capacity from their waters. Earlier this year, Senegal rejected applications from 52 foreign trawlers that could have resulted in substantial over-exploitation of marine resources.

“We are deeply grateful that the decision has been taken to prioritise the development of small-scale fishers,” said Jerry N. Blamo, the President of the Liberia Artisanal Fishermen’s Association, welcoming the decision.

“This will give Liberian fishers the chance to fish sustainably to feed their families and the country, not only now but for generations to come.”

Liberia’s decision has been praised by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), which has repeatedly flagged up fisheries issues in Western Africa.

“The decision by Emma Glassco and NaFAA to refuse licenses is an important milestone in the sustainable management of Liberia’s fisheries,” said EJF’s Steve Trent.

“We further commend the transparent process undertaken by Liberia to consider these licenses. It sends a clear message across West Africa that states in the region can prioritise local fishing communities to protect the marine environment and the jobs and food security that it supports.”

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