Liberia clarifies its stance on Chinese vessel registration
The Liberian government has finally responded to the country’s seafood stakeholders on the contentious issue of the registration of six Chinese super trawlers that had traveled to the country from Mozambique using transit documents that expired on June 26.
The Director General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) Emma Metieh Glassco has broken her silence on the contentious issue as mounting pressure from Liberia’s Seamen Union, who wanted the vessels registered, continued to build. Glassco said permitting the vessels to operate in the country would be a “breach of international protocols.”
“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,” Glassco said.
Her response came after the storming of the NaFAA offices on 31 July by members of the Seamen Union, who claimed the failure to register the Chinese vessels had denied them jobs even after European and other international vessels operating on Liberia’s marine waters locked them out from boarding.
However, the Seamen Union’s push for vessel registrations contradicts an earlier position taken by Liberia’s local artisanal fishing associations that had urged the government to deny them licensing.
Glassco says Liberia would breach international protocol if it allowed the registration of the Chinese vessels contrary to the United Nations Port State Measures Agreement, of which Liberia is a signatory.
“The licensing of these six super trawlers has to be in line with the U.N. Fish Stock Agreement (and) the licensing of additional vessels has to be based on the availability of resources,” she said.
Currently, Liberia is preparing to carry out a reduction of the current licensed international vessels operating on the country’s marine waters after the completion of a stock assessment project, for which financing has been secured, according to NaFAA.
The debate on whether or not to register the Chinese vessels in Liberia comes barely three years after the European Union issued Liberia with a formal warning, or yellow card, to push the country to step up the fight against IUU fishing in compliance with the E.U.’s IUU Regulation.
The warning came shortly after the E.U. identified weaknesses in Liberia’s strategy to fight IUU including “the complete lack of control over the activities of Liberian-flagged fishing vessels, an outdated legal framework and problems with compliance to Regional Fisheries Management Organisation rules.”
Furthermore, the Liberia’s former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had issued an Executive Order that placed the Bureau of National Fisheries under the Liberia Maritime Authority and introduced new measures such as “as the reduction of the protected inshore zone from 6 to 3 m – that compromise the conservation and sustainable management of fish stocks” causing concern in the E.U.
Photo courtesy of Liberia's National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority