Liberia: Fishermen in Montserrado Protest

Credible information reaching this paper indicates local fishermen in Montserrado County have boycotted the trade in protest of taxes levied on them by the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority or NaFAA.Some of the local fishermen who have laid down their nets, explain that the tax imposed by the regulatory agency is exorbitant, adding that unlike the past, they are not making enough catch on sea these days to able to pay such taxes.

They said some of them are being required to pay between US$250 and US$300 and above for their canoes at the time business is slow.Fishermen Aba Koko and Kwame Kofia say while they are not refusing to pay taxes, equally so government should understand the business environment is tough.

They plead with government for one year grace period that would enable them galvanize resources to pay their taxes. The fishermen further lament the situation has pushed them to the wall, considering the fact that besides paying taxes, they also have their children's tuition and rental to pay.A tour of several beaches in Montserrado, including West Point, New Kru Town and Banjor, among others, uncovered that several fishermen have parked their canoes.

When the NaFAA head office on Bushrod Island, was contacted, staffers informed this reporter their bosses were out of office.Local fish sellers who usually troop to these areas to buy fish, returned with empty pans due to lack of fish.In January this year, the Director-General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), Emma Glasco, announced a new fee structure for fishermen operating in Liberia's territorial waters, based on their engines' capacity.

Madam Glasco said the new measure is part of management's programs to resuscitate the sector and increase revenue generation.She said under the new structure, which takes effect immediately, owners of paddling canoes will pay the sum of LRD2,000 annually, while operators of 1Hp (House power) to 14Hp will pay a yearly fee of US$200.

The previous fee was LRD5, 500 per canoe; while 15Hp to 40 Hp fees have been increased from LRD10,000 to US$475.

Fishermen operating machines with capacity between 41Hp and 100Hp will now pay US$1,000 annually, while operators of migrant or seasonal canoes are being charged US$1,250 yearly.

Director Glasco explained that this will allow government to provide subsidy to fishmongers and develop a robust semi-industrial program, including a value-added component such as processing facility.

Emmanuel Mondaye, Jonathan Browne

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