Monrovia, 18 May 2017
Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President of the Republic of Liberia
I am writing this letter following instructions received from the European Union's services
responsible for maritime affairs and for development cooperation, DG MARE and DG
DEVCO. The European Union recently learnt from the press about Executive Order no 84 of
April, 24 pertaining to the Management of Liberia Fishery Resources. The European Union
has been very supportive and appreciative of your administrations' efforts to improve fisheries
management in Liberia's Exclusive Economic Zone and develop the domestic fisheries sector.
Thanks to these reforms Liberia is now considered the country with the healthiest fish stock
in the region.
Our longstanding cooperation culminated in the signature in December 2015 of the EULiberia
Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA), where both Liberia and the
European Union undertake to promote responsible fishing in the Liberian fishing zone as
provided for in FAO's Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing. The SFPA has introduced
great improvements in the sector governance, especially with regard to the licensing of
foreign vessels, and has been generating significant revenue for the Government of Liberia.
The European Union was surprised to learn about this Executive Order from the press as the
SFPA agreement clearly states that "Art 3.5 - The Parties shall cooperate with a view to
implementing a sectoral fisheries policy adopted by the Government of Liberia and to that
end shall initiate a policy dialogue on the necessary reforms. They shall consult with a view
to potentially adopting measures in this area" and "Art 3.8 - The Parties shall consult one
another prior to adopting any decision that may affect the activities of Union vessels under
The European Union has serious concerns about the implications of the EO 84. Based on
experience in other countries and beyond we have reason to believe that some of the measures
introduced under Section 2 of the EO will not lead to sustainable investments, but rather to
the accelerated depletion of current fish stocks, resulting in reduced economic opportunities
in the sector and increased food insecurity. In particular:
Section 2.b - reduction of Inshore Exclusive Zone (IEZ) as established by the Fisheries
Regulations of 2010 from 6 nautical miles to 3 nautical miles to "ensure that industrial and
semi-industrial fishing can restart and again become viable", and 2.c - "cumulative stock of
fishery resources to be harvested shall not exceed 100,000 metric tons per annum".
These measures do not appear to be based on the precautionary approach of the FAO's Code
of Conduct for Responsible Fishing. Experience in other countries in the region and beyond
has demonstrated that this type of measure risks jeopardising fish stocks, artisanal fishermen's
livelihoods, amplified vulnerability of livelihoods and food security in the country, but it also
risks being of little economic value for Liberia. The best way to ensure the viability of
industrial and semi-industrial fishing is to strictly adhere to scientifically sound sustainability
principles, which include the enforcement of a sufficient IEZ and a system of quotas based on
a fish stock assessment.
Section 2.b – Exemption of all APM Terminal and other Ports handling charges for fishing
vessels below 500 gross tons, and 2.e - revision guidelines and fiscal regime for obtaining
Fishery License. We believe that these measures will prove to be a subsidy to foreign vessels
and that they will have little or no economic significance for Liberia; We also believe these
measures will likely open the door to undesirable operators who will be looking for new
fishing opportunities when neighbouring countries take measures to reduce overfishing in
their waters or increase licencing fees.
With regard to the transfer of the interim overall responsibility for the Bureau of National
Fisheries from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), we
would have rather welcomed a swift approval of the draft Fisheries Act by the Legislature.
We would appreciate more information about the rationale for this decision and the impact of
it on other pieces of legislation. In our understanding the Ministry of Agriculture and LiMA
have very different mandates, and the Natural Resources Law created BNF under MoA as the
regulatory body for the fisheries sector.
Since 2015 the European Union has been cooperating with Liberia in the fight against Illegal,
unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. One of the problems identified during this
dialogue was the fact that Liberia's internationally operating fishing vessels and reefers are
not controlled by the competent authority for fisheries. While this EO could be viewed as a
solution to this problem, we do not believe it will solve the problem unless it is accompanied
by real task allocation within LiMA. The European Union looks forward to receiving more
information so that it can judge the impact of the Executive Order on the fight against IUU
At the specific request of the Government of Liberia, the European Union has recently
contracted a Technical Assistant to support the management of the Bureau of National
Fisheries, amongst other things in the implementation of the Fisheries Act. The opportunity
and the Terms of Reference of this support will have to be re-discussed in light of the changes
introduced by EO 84.
Moreover, the European Union has also committed to supporting the fisheries sector with
EUR 7 million allocated under the EU-Liberia Agriculture Programme. In light of the recent
developments, DG DEVCO has confirmed that the Delegation should put on hold the design
of this programme until the roles and responsibilities, and the impact of EO 84 are fully
clarified. The European Union made these funds available on the basis of the 2015 Liberia
food security assessment which found that more than half of the population still suffers from
food insecurity and that fish is the main source of protein in the country. Our joint
developmental objectives are put at risk by the relaxation of the sector governance introduced
with the new Executive Order.
The European Union remains available to provide all additional information and to continue
the dialogue with the Liberia authorities. A meeting between the competent services of the
EU (DG MARE) and H.E the Ambassador of the Republic of Liberia to the European Union
took place in Brussels on May 11, 2017. The regular Joint Committee of the EU-Liberia
Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement which will take place between June 7th and 9th in
Brussels will provide an additional opportunity for dialogue.
The EU Delegation in Monrovia will also remain engaged in the process and will welcome
any opportunity for further clarification with regard to our support projects, also in
coincidence with the World Bank fisheries in-country mission foreseen for May 17-24 in
which we will be closely involved.
Please accept Madam President, the assurances of my highest appreciation.
Cc: Hon. Moses M. Zinnah, Minister, Ministry of Agriculture
Hon. Bioma S. Karama, Minister, Ministry of Finance & Development Planning
Hon. Dr. James F. Kollie, Commissioner / Chief Executive Officer LiMA