Liberian Fisheries Expert Advances Policy, Legal Reforms -To Mend Fish Stocks At US-Africa Leaders Summit

MONROVIA – Liberia’s fisheries expert and Queen’s University Belfast Ph.D. Researcher, Sheck Abdul Sherif has told global stakeholders in the fisheries sector of Africa and the United States that the limited availability of appropriate legislation to safeguard fish remains a major drawback to Liberia’s battle against illegal unregulated, and unreported fishing within the country’s waters.

Mr. Sherif made the remarks when he presented a position paper on the “science and IUU Fishing Policies” during a side event held on the margins of the African Leaders Summit on Tuesday, December 13, 2022, held at Washington Convention Centre under the theme “Building Our Green Future Together. (State House)

According to the Ocean Acidification Africa Network Co-Chair Sherif, the absence of substantial legal protections is undermining Liberia’s efforts in the management of industrial and small-scale fisheries. This bottleneck, he stated, has negatively impacted fish resources since there are existing legislative gaps caused by a lack of a definitive legal framework on fisheries.

He said “despite the importance of Liberia’s marine fisheries, this industry has suffered from biological and economic overfishing over the last two decades. As a result, overall fish stocks are decreasing, and the fishing industry is not profitable. Overfishing is primarily caused by poor fisheries governance and management, as well as IUU fishing, which costs Liberia and the West African region an estimated US$1.3 billion in legal revenues each year.”

More than the absence of legal protections, Mr. Sherif pointed out that the nonexistence of scientific data to underpin fisheries management is also a challenge because data is needed in policy decisions making in the industry.

“To manage fisheries, data are needed – not only for species targeted by a fishery or species making up the affected ecosystems but for tracking the activities of fishing and fishing-related vessels. For example, fisheries observers are the only independent data collection source for some types of at-sea information, such as bycatch, catch composition, protected species interactions, and gear configuration. Observer data are critical to the success of the fishing plans, as they inform institutional decisions regarding quotas, caps, and discard allocations, he told his audience.

The Liberian fisheries expert intoned that steps are being taken to address some of the vexing issues in the industry by supporting the restructuring of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences at the United Methodist University in Liberia including the establishment of the School Marine Science through a partnership between the university and the Blue Action Network (BAN).

He is a fellow of the International Anti-Corruption Academy in Austria and collaborating with the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) will ensure that Liberia joins the FiTI, expand the Marine Science School at the UMU and establish experimental research center for ocean science based on funding availability.  

The side event was organized by the United States Department of State to engender conversation on supporting Conservation, Climate Adaptation, and the Just Energy Transition under the theme: Building Our Green Future Together”.

Participants at the event included Supporting Conservation, Climate Adaptation, and the Just Energy Transition, under the theme of “Building Our Green Future Together”.

Participants of the session included U.S. cabinet members, African heads of state and ministers, businesses, youth, civil society, and philanthropic organizations.

It provided a platform for discussion and showcased shared efforts to conserve and restore the continent’s ecosystems and rich natural resources—while also diversifying its energy matrix, realizing energy access and energy security goals, and building sustainable supply chains.

Although the region is responsible for extremely low emissions per capita, the organizers stressed that it stands to suffer some of the most severe effects of climate change.

The session-focused areas include: the conservation of nature-based economies, including forests and wildlife, and protecting Africa’s waters by combatting illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; climate adaptation, including initiatives under the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) on climate-smart agriculture, forestry, and food security; and the just energy transition, including how we are working together to accelerate African countries’ just transitions to a clean energy future that advances energy access, resilience, and security.

 Other speakers included the H.E. Wavel Ramkalawan, President, Seychelles; T.H. Samantha Power, Administrator, United States Agency for International Development; Kaddu Sebunya, Chief Executive Officer, Africa Wildlife Federation; Sheck Sherif, Illegal, Unreported, and unregulated Fishing Expert, Ocean Acidification Network, U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meek.

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