Monrovia — Mr. Glassco Togba, Director of Marine Fishery, Liberian Fishery Resources has accused the Liberia Maritime Authority of undermining the reduction of its Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ), currently reserved for artisanal fishermen, reducing it from six nautical miles to just three and removing the bureau from Agriculture to Maritime.
Dr. James Kollie, head of the LMA, countered Tuesday when both men appeared before the senate joint committee on Maritime, Lands, Mines and Energy, Agriculture and Security, that Contrary to Mr. Togba's claims, the Liberia Maritime Authority had no role in the executive order issued by the president.
Mr. Togba said the act that created the bureau of National fisheries was enacted in 1957 and revised in 1973 and since then the bureau of National Fisheries has been under the Ministry of Agriculture.
"We have been working probably quote and un- quote talk of war Maritime has been fighting to take over fisheries."
The disclosure comes in the wake of on-going debate about the legality of an executive order passed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that takes away the Bureau of Fisheries from the Ministry of Agriculture
On Monday, Dr. Kollie told lawmaker that the reduction will make the Country's fisheries sector commercially viable and averred that the discussion surrounding the fisheries that led to the executive has been on-going for the past four years.
The Maritime boss tried to avoid questions about what led to the President decision to issued executive order as lawmaker made a point about the illegality of the executive order but said, the Fisheries Bureau still remains as a bureau which will be supervised by the Bureau of maritime.
The Plenary of the Senate and Representatives took separate decisions on a communication sent to them by the Liberia Artisanal Fishermen Association.
A member of the lower house mandated its leadership to take charge of the matter while the upper house mandated its committee on Lands, Mines Energy and Agriculture to conduct committee hearing on the matter.
Recently President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf passed Executive Order 84 allowing industrial vessels greater access to fish in its coastal waters. Under a new Executive Order, the government plans to halve its Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ), currently reserved for artisanal fishermen, reducing it from six nautical miles to just three.
This will allow industrial vessels, including trawlers, to fish much closer to the shore. It is estimated that about 65% of Liberia's animal protein comes from the fishing sector; much of it from artisanal fleets.
Reducing the exclusion zone would see an almost inevitable rise of competition from foreign industrial vessels fishing in coastal waters, and could put the livelihoods of the 33,000 people who rely on this industry at risk.