LIBERIA: Spanish-Senegalese Trawlers Experimental Fisheries Land Millions of Dollars Backdoors

The Liberian economy is reeling on edge, with critical sectors like health and education nosediving due to little or no funding. The A. M. Dogliotti College of Medicine is the latest victim that is nearing closure. But state actors in lucrative revenue-generating agencies such as the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) would spare no effort in collecting fees intended for national coffers through backdoors dealing with Spanish-Senegalese Fishing trawlers that are operating in Liberian waters under the guise of research fishing activities.

Although the Liberian Fisheries law of 2019 does not grant permission to ‘experimental fishing’ except for scientific research purposes: “no research fishing authorization shall be issued without such plan having been submitted to and approved by the Director-General,” -part 3 section 10.24, Liberian authorities issued temporary authorization for experimental fishing in Liberian waters. Investigation into circumstances surrounding the issuance of these temporary permits found no specific payment method for the experimental fishing authorization.

The three Senegalese-flagged vessels: EL AMINE, SOKONE and the KANBAL, III registered to SOPERKA which is a Spanish company under the name of Grupo Pereira of Vigo and each almost 40 meters long, trawled extensively on deep water reefs in July and August 2021 for a valuable species, the deepwater red shrimps – a giant prawn of the world.

Holding on to the privileges enjoyed under the “temporary authorization” permit, the operators evade paying 10% export tax that would go to the Liberian government had they been issued a regular license. Experts in the industry have opined those backdoor dealings of Liberian authorities with these vessel leaves much to desire and point to organized pillaging.

On the sidelines of the United Nations Conference on Climate, on November 8, 2021, the President of the African Confederation of Artisanal Fisheries Organizations (CAOPA), Mr. Gaoussou Gueye, said, “in Liberia, Spanish trawlers re-flagged in Senegal are plundering deepwater shrimps’ resources in the artisanal fishing zone under the pretext of experimental fishing.”

Moreover, in contravention of the conditions set for research fishing in Liberia, the operations of the trawlers targeting deep water shrimp have not been subjected to a research plan. Thus, the data to be collected is not defined. There is also no plan for communicating the research results, and there is no specification of the environmental impacts to be monitored in the license conditions. In summary, the activities of these vessels in Liberian waters are not transparent, and it is improbable that they will produce valuable data for resource assessment.”

The below screenshot shows the correlation of fishing effort in one location. This impact is rather harmful to the marine environment and destructive to the reconstruction of the fisheries, which threatens and undermines the sustainable management practices of the country.

However, it is estimated that at least US$3 million ex-vessel value would be accrued by these vessels, but the company is reporting a $1.3 million return only, according to a source. Only when NaFAA opens its accounts can the people know if these deals are benefitting the nation.

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