The Liberian government has officially refused licenses to six Chinese-flagged trawlers, the latest development in a string of similar incidents in Africa. The trawlers arrived earlier this year, and local fishermen’s associations, including the Liberia Artisanal Fishermen’s Association, called on the government to reject the requests for licenses. The six trawlers would be capable of taking 12,000 metric tons (MT) of fish a year – more than the sustainable yearly catch of the species.
In August, the government finally responded with its stance. The Director General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) Emma Metieh Glassco said permitting the vessels would be a “breach of international protocols. The six gigantic vessels that came to Liberia have larger fishing capacities,” Glassco said. “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 confirmed via a radio interview that the six vessels will not be granted a license. President of the Liberia Artisanal Fishermen’s Association Jerry Blamo welcomed the decision by the government.
“We are deeply grateful that the decision has been taken to prioritize the development of small-scale fishers and avoid giving access to large industrial super-trawlers,” Blamo said in a release. “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 is far from the only country in Africa that has faced an influx of foreign vessels. A recently released Greenpeace report highlighted the influence of foreign vessels in African waters, with countries like Senegal and Ghana seeing an influx of suspected Chinese-owned vessels. Liberia’s decision to not allow the Chinese vessels licensing was welcomed by NGOs including the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), which has called attention to the presence of foreign-flagged vessels in African waters.
“The decision by Emma Glassco and NaFAA to refuse licenses to these supertrawlers is an important milestone in the sustainable management of Liberia’s fisheries,” EJF Executive Director Steve Trent said. “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 prioritize local fishing communities to protect the marine environment and the jobs and food security that it supports.”
Photo courtesy of the Environmental Justice Foundation