Hispano-Senegalese trawlers accused of looting precious Liberian shrimp | World news
MONROVIA (Reuters) – A fisheries watchdog has accused a Senegalese-Spanish company of looting valuable Liberian shrimp that sell for around $ 80 a kilo, using an experimental license intended for research purposes.
The Brussels-based Coalition for Fair Fisheries Agreements (CFFA) said three bottom trawlers owned by SOPERKA SA, a subsidiary of Spain’s Grupo Pereira group, were taking advantage of the license to pay less taxes and Liberia was potentially losing millions of dollars in profits.
Grupo Pereira did not respond to multiple requests for comment and SOPERKA representatives contacted by phone said no one was available for an interview.
SOPERKA obtained its authorization in May as part of an agreement between Senegal and Liberia which allows a fixed number of Senegalese vessels to operate in Liberian waters.
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The bilateral agreement encountered opposition from local fishing associations over concerns over overfishing. Artisanal fishing supports some 33,000 people in Liberia.
Once among the richest in the world, West African fish stocks have been plundered. Ocean Shock: Fishmeal factories have plundered Africa in recent years by industrial trawlers combing the oceans to supply European and Asian markets.
“Senegal has let its waters run out. We fear the same will happen to us,” said John Adams, general secretary of a fishermen’s association in the Liberian town of Robertsport.
Foreign vessels do not comply with research fishing requirements, which include having two Liberian observers on board and performing an environmental impact assessment, CFFA said.
The company is also exempt from a 10% export tax that would normally apply, he said.
Austin Saye Wehye, director of research and statistics at the Liberia National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority, said the vessels were operating under a temporary research license to inform the development of a shrimp fishery.
He refuted most of the accusations in the CFFA report but admitted that there were fewer observers on board the trawlers than the law requires. He said Liberia wanted to set up its own national fishing company rather than relying on foreign vessels.
(Removes reference to loophole in first paragraph, clarifies government official’s comments)
(Reporting by Lucinda Rouse; Editing by Nellie Peyton and Jon Boyle)
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