The Government of Liberia is losing significant revenues to Spanish-Senegalese vessels under a pseudo research fishing scheme. An experimental “authority” has beenissued by the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) for pillaging prized Liberian shrimps that would retail for up to US$100 per kilo in Europeanmarkets where they are headed.
Three bottom trawlers operating under this pseudo research scheme are dishonestly using the “authority” to defraud the Liberian government’s critical financial resources, reportedly with the acquiescence of Liberia’sfisheries regulatory agency officials.
NaFAA Director–General Emma M. Glassco has confirmed issuing the authority to the trawler, insisting that no law was violated because the Board of Directors and some members of the Liberian Legislature sanctioned the deal. She is downplaying the fact that Liberia is potentially losing millions in taxes.
More than pillaging shrimps’ resources, the foreign vessels are unloading their catches in Ivory Coast and Dakar in Senegal without any independent checks, thesingle fisheries observer onboard each vessel under the 2020 Fisheries Regulations. Has little chance of objective reporting. The trawlers are also exempted from the 10% export tax in contravention of Liberian fisheries statutes. Investigation into the syndicate has found that the three vessels are scooping massive profits at the detriment of state coffers: El Amine, Kanball III, and Sokone.
According to our investigation, one vessel unloaded in Dakar in the first week of November 2021, while a second is headed for the same destination. As a result, the experimental fishing was expected to end in October 2021 with no benefits to Liberia as all the shrimps are taken to Dakar, Senegal, and unknown destinations has been extended and it is not known how long for or under what conditions
On the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change conference 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 theenvironmental impacts to be monitored in the license conditions. In summary, the activities of these vessels within Liberian waters are not transparent, and it is improbable that they will produce valuable data for any resource assessment.“
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.
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.