A two-day workshop, under a four-month fishery project (January-April, 2018), sponsored by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), has ended at the headquarters of the National Fishery and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), Mesurado Fishing Pier, Liberia Coast Guard Base, Bushrod Island, Monrovia.
The workshop, titled "Best Practices in Fisheries Management: Case Studies of Ghana, Nigeria, and Other Countries", was organized by the Faimaba Fisheries Development (FFDC), Inc., one of two private implementing partners of UNMIL on its peace-related fishery project in Liberia. The other local implementing partner is National Fish Farmers Union of Liberia (NaFFUL).
During his Opening Statement of the Workshop, FFDC's Executive Director, Edwin Bonar, remarked: "This workshop is about issues affecting the fishery sectors and how to find ways to mitigate them." Bonar is a graduate a graduate in Agriculture at the Cuttington University College, and a former employee of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
In an interview with this reporter prior the commencement of the Workshop, Bonar said the four-month project is the product of UNMIL's conflict-prevention and peace-consolidation intervention in Liberia's fishery sector for food security in the country.
"UNMIL is the sole sponsor for this Liberian fisheries project for now. FFDC has two responsibilities in the UNMIL-FFDC partnership: the first is to train and introduce artisanal fishermen and fish farmers to Aquaponics, and to construct Aquaponics facilities in the Township of West Point and New Kru Town -- two popular fishing communities in Montserrado County, one of Liberia's nine recorded regional fishing zones."
From the UNMIL's funding, FFDC sent three male officers of NaFAA to Ghana on April 1, 2018 for a five-day training in the use of modern technology for the Liberian fishery sector, the FFDC's boss revealed.
Speaking for the NaFAA's Director General, Madam Emma Metieh-Glassco, who was on an official duty elsewhere, NaFAA's Deputy Director of Technical Services, Mr. William Y. Boeh, said one of the objectives of the Workshop was to teach the Liberians about modern methods of processing of fish as is being done in other countries that earns millions from fish farming and exports.
"We expect our people at this Workshop here to learn from experiences in Ghana, represented by the chief presenter from that country," said Mr. Boeh, who holds a Master's Degree in Marine Affairs (Fish Management) from the University of The Philippines, Bayasas Iloilo, Naigao, Republic of The Philippines, in 2013.
Making a Presentation for NaFAA, Mr. Austin Saye Wehye, NaFAA's Director of Fisheries and Statistics, rated Liberia far low below Ghana on all areas of the fishery sector: the quality of hatcheries (where fish are caught or grown or multiplied), the size and quality of fishing vessels being used, the amount of harvest (fish) caught per day, the presence or quality of structure as government's regulatory station, among other things in the fishing industry.
According to Mr. Wehye, who is a beneficiary of a USAID-sponsored two-year aquaculture education at the University of Ghana, the major challenge facing the Liberian fishery industry is the absence of a fishery laboratory.
He, however, noted that a foreign country has responded to the Liberian government's cry for help in the construction of a national fishery laboratory.
"The Republic of Iceland has promised to build a fishery laboratory for Liberia," disclosed Mr. Wehye, a graduate with a Master's in Fisheries Science, with emphasis on Stock Assessment, from the University of Ghana, Legon, in 2017.
Wehye's presentation dwelled much on Quality Control and Quality Assurance. He defines the former as the process of ensuring the tidiness of fishing processing point, and efficient enforcement of rules and regulations of the fishery sector; and defines the latter as the output of Quality Control.
Approximately two million people die each year due to unsafe fish food, Mr. Wehye said, quoting a World Health Organization (WHO) report. These deaths, the presenter attributed to the use of dynamite, which he said contains chemicals that contaminate the fish to be eaten by human beings.
Making his contribution on fish farmers' use of dynamite, Liberia's Coordinator of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP), Mr. Yevewuo Subah, said preventing such practice is extremely difficult due to the legal processes involved to get the person into Court. "You have to hire a lawyer throughout the stages and that costs a lot of money," he said.
At some points of the presentation the facilitator allowed participants to make contributions.
Amos G. Gobeh, Jr., Fisheries Observer, NaFAA, said he and his colleagues of the Fisheries Observatory had seen some Asian fishermen urinating into the water where they were fishing, called the foreigners' attention to the health danger of what they were doing (urinating into the fish habitat), but the foreign fishermen snubbed them.
Madam Ijua Nah, Vice Chairlady of the Liberia Artisanal Fishing Association (LAFA), said one of the causes of the deaths, according to WHO's report, is the stationary net, called "set-net", which keeps dead fish in the fishing water for a long time without freezing by the fishermen.
Mr. Amos Sieh Snowie, an artisanal fisherman and Kru Chief at Kru Beach, Township of West Point, said the vessel used by artisanal fishermen is small to carry fish-freezing ice on sea.
Madam Theresa S. Bayon, a fish monger, and Secretary of the Women's Wing of LAFA, advised artisanal fishermen to take along small, portable ice carrier (Cooler) for cooling of fish in their vessel, if they cannot get the cost for bigger ice container. She advised her fellow female fish mongers to turn spoiled fish into "mwe-mwe", the local term for a contaminated and smelly fish preserved with salt and sun-dried to serve as a 'sweetener' for a soup or eaten with "dry rice".
Ghana's representative at the workshop, Mr. Asiedu Berchie (PhD), a lecturer at the Department of Fisheries and Water Resources, University of Ghana, spoke on the topic, "Fish Quality Assurance and Legislation in Relation to Fish Processing."
He said fish farming (aquaculture) was introduced in Ghana by the Department of Fisheries (DoF) in the 1950s. "It began as pond constructed in an experimental scale," he said.
He said the Northern part of Nigeria was the starting point, beginning with irrigation channels that were later transformed to pond.
By the 1980s, these ponds were further stretched in width and length to accommodate more fish, added Dr. Asiedu.
He also said Ghana's advancement in fish farming for export started during the reign of President John Kuffour in 2007, and took giant steps forward during the reign of John Atta Mills.
Now, in the 20th Century, Ghana is exporting fish (tuna) to European Union countries, and that Ghana earned two hundred million U.S. Dollars (US$200M) from exportation of fish (Tuna) to EU countries in the year 2017, Mr. Asiedu said.
He showed pictures of stages of Ghana in the its fishery sector: types of fish habitats or hatcheries (Pond, Cage and Tanks), types of fishing vessels, fisheries (of national government and of individuals), national fisheries laboratory, and various samples of cans of different fish packaged in Ghana, among a horde of pictures.
Participants were allowed to make contributions.
Elizabeth K. Mulbah, proprietress of Nun Nun Farms, complained about high the cost of fish feed (US$1.00 per small sack) in the Liberian market.
Annett Johnson, member of the Liberia Artisanal Fishing Association (LAFA), complained on "spoiled fish" sold to her fish mongers' group from a private fishing vessel that "came through NaFAA's inspection point here," she claimed.
Gregory M. Kpowulu, NaFAA's Water Specialist for Agriculture and In-land Fisheries, said he was disappointed on Liberia's Ministry of Agriculture's inability to construct an "advanced, but less costly, metal fish-drying tanks for low-income bracket fish mongers, like the types I saw at the Ibadan University (Nigeria), built by the University, where I had done my studies in aquaculture," he said.
A female participant asked the Ghanaian about his opinion of how he thinks the Government of Liberia could support Liberian fish farmers' effort to harvest an amount of fish that would be equaled to what Ghanaian fish farmers catch.
"First the Government should have the political will to make your country's fishery sector to grow," Dr. Asiedu responded. "Political will is the paramount requirement to move any sector of a Nation. It entails putting the right people, based on experience, over the sector. The second thing your country's government can do is to empower the country's fish farmers with low-interest rate start-up capital or fishery implements the farmers need to work with. The other things can follow later. "
Since its arrival in Liberia in 2003, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has restricted each of its nation-building operations on the platform of peace.
The total funding provided by UNMIL for this four-month fishery project is seven hundred thousand United States Dollars (US$700, 000).