Liberia sets up new fisheries testing lab, with help from Iceland

Published on
April 20, 2020

Two state agencies in Liberia have signed a memorandum of understanding on the licensing of fish and seafood exports and imports as government seeks to harmonize the fisheries sector regulatory framework that had previously hampered sector growth.

The MoU, which was signed by Commerce and Industry Minister Wilson Tarpeh and National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) Director General Emma Metieh Glassco on 30 March, makes it mandatory for all fish and fish exporters and importers to obtain permits from the two institutions for their trade to be legal.

According to the new permit issuance regime, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry will, in addition to overall regulation of trade, commerce, and industrial activities, be responsible for issuing the import notification form (INF) and export permit declaration (EPD) to “any company or individual who intends to import or export fish and fish production into and out of Liberia.”

Starting April 2020, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry will only issue INF and EPD forms to fish and fish exporters and importers who already have permits for the trade from the NaFAA.

Compliance with the process, the MoU indicates will be in “fulfillment of the import and export procedure of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Management and Development Act of 2019.” The Act was signed into law by President George Weah in 2019, following approval by the country’s parliament, to provide guidelines on the management, conservation, and protection of Liberia’s fisheries.

Moreover, the MoU says both the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and NaFAA will “carry out joint inspection of cold rooms for compliance purposes.”

The signing of the MoU by the two agencies coincides with the launch of test trials of Liberia’s first competent laboratory facility since the 1970s and which has been re-started with the support of the government of Iceland.

NaFAA said the laboratory will wean Liberia fisheries sector away from overreliance on neighboring countries such as Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire for quality assurance services, and will hence increase the country’s share of the global seafood market.

“Although Liberia is very rich in high value commercial quantities of both demersal and pelagic fish stocks, the country has lost its exporting powers to international fish markets due to the failure to set up a competent laboratory for the purpose of testing and certification of fish products.  As a result, there is a huge revenue leakage,” Glassco said on 9 April. “Once the lab is accredited, fishery products for export from Liberia, does not need to be routed through second-member countries such as Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire ,availing an opportunity for direct revenue earnings from exports, thereby triggering at least three times increment or more in its current revenue generation.”

Photo courtesy of National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority of Liberia

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