Title: Economic Analysis of the Coastal Fisheries of Liberia

University thesis
Year of publication:
University of Iceland


During the civil conflict which started in 1989, there was a complete lack of governance in the Liberian fisheries resulting in widespread illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. Following the end of the civil conflict in 2003, successive governments have focused on governance reform, and in 2010 a major policy reform was introduced with the assistance of the World Bank supported West Africa Reginal Fisheries Program (WARFP). Governance and transparency measures were implemented, including the introduction of a 6 nm Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ) for the artisanal fisheries and the establishment of a functional Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) system in the industrial fisheries which were mostly owned and operated by foreigners. In three published articles and one white paper in this thesis, the development of the Liberian fishing industry is examined empirically in light of the 2010 policy changes. The focus is largely on the state of the coastal fishery resources, profitability and the fleet development, technical efficiency, and productivity of the coastal fleet as well as the fishery value chain.
The policy changes in 2010 have been successful in attaining certain parts of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 (i.e. conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development). In particular targets 14.4 and 14B have been addressed, in terms of stock recovery and increasing small-scale fisheries (SSF) access to coastal resources. This has resulted in a redistribution of the benefits from the industrial operators to the small-scale fishers and influenced how the coastal fleet in Liberia has developed. However, the 2010 policy reforms may have been at the expense of economic efficiency in the Liberian fishing industry. There has been a 9-fold increase in the number number of small-scale Kru and Fanti boats, while the coastal industrial fishery sector experienced considerable disinvestment. The development of the small-scale coastal fleets has mostly been driven by differences in profits. Apart from shallow-water demersal species, key stocks appear to be underutilized.
During the civil conflict there was limited investment in new fishing technology. This resulted in a major inefficiency problem among the small-scale fleets, although the boats are on average profitable. The fishery value chain is characterized by little or no value-addition services and lack of transparency stemming from power asymmetries and lack of information flow in the value chain. The case studies presented in this thesis call for the Liberian government attention to adopt policy measures and recommendations aimed at improving the performance of the fishing industry including both harvesting and post-harvest sectors.
The case studies presented in this thesis call the Liberian government’s attention to adopt policy measures and recommendations aimed at improving the performance of the fishing industry, including both harvesting and post-harvest sectors. As a way forward for the small-scale Kru and Fanti fleets, there is a need for the government to address the open access situation. A new domestic semi-industrial sector with new harvesting technology such as fiberglass reinforced plastic vessels could be introduced. This would make them better equipped to fish for the deep water demersal species and make better handling of the fish possible, promoting value-addition. In general, it is important to improve fisheries management in Liberia to support the livelihoods of those who depend on the fishing industry as well as to lift the yellow card imposed on Liberia by the EU thereby enabling them to find new markets for their products.

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