Ghanaians Take Over Liberia's Fishing Business

Several Ghanaians have taken over the fishing industry in Liberia, occupying the coastal parts of the country. They are mainly engaged in marine fishing at the artisanal level.

The community has been named Fanti town because of the presence of many Ghanaians at West point, one of the counties of Monrovia. Fanti language is a Ghanaian dialect spoken in the central and western regions of Ghana.

John K. Wilson, a native of Saltpond in the Central region of Ghana, has been fishing in Liberia for more than 20 years and even though he returned to Ghana when the civil war commenced in Liberia, he returned with his family to live at Westpoint after the war.

In an interview with CITY & BUSINESS GUIDE, he said his family was lured to Liberia by the lucrative fishing industry.

Currently, the man, who lives with his wife and four children, rarely visits Ghana.

'On average, I am able to catch 450 tonnes of fish daily but on very good days this goes as high as 1500 tonnes.'

The first Ghanaian fishers arrived in Liberia in the 1920s and the number has been growing.

Traditional fishers have operated along the Liberian coast and inland waters for centuries mainly at the subsistence level. Fishermen catch fish to feed their families but in recent times the excess catch are sold either fresh or preserved through smoking or salting.

Currently, fishing is a key sector in the agricultural framework of Liberia as well as in the national economy.

In 2002, the fishing sector contributed 12 per cent of agricultural to GDP and 3.2 per cent of the national GDP. Fishing plays a key role in the livelihood of the coastal population, and directly employ about 33,000 people using about 3,500 small vessels.

The marine fisheries sector in Liberia is usually categorized into two sub-sectors, the industrial and the small-scale or artisanal fisheries.

However the small-scale fisheries sub-sector is the most important.

Indigenous Kru fishermen, Fanti and Popoe fishermen and their families who migrated from the neighbouring countries of Ghana, Benin and Ivory Coast are presently the major actors in the artisanal fishery.

Artisanal fisheries is dominated by the Fanti fishermen as they own and use  the large motorized fishing canoes and employ more sophisticated fishing nets and fishing techniques.

As a result, they catch more fish per trip than the indigenous Kru fishermen.

The indigenous Kru fishermen fish with between 1 and 3 persons in small dug-out canoes of about 7 metres.

Some are now powered by 7 horse power outboard engines. Their gear are mainly hook and line and occasionally gillnets are used.

Fanti fishermen utilize larger canoes, powered by outboard engines, with crews as large as 15 and use sophisticated methods such as ring and purse nets for small pelagic species, with large gillnets specifically adapted for different species and seasons.

The Fantis are responsible for about 40 percent of the volume of artisanal landings. Before the war in Liberia, Fanti fishermen were responsible for 90 per cent of the country's artisanal fish catch.

Sylvester Larna, Commissioner of West Point, confirmed that the Ghanaian population is the largest in the community, stressing that fishing is the main occupation.

Though he could not state the total number of Ghanaian fishermen and fish processors in the community, it is reported that about 13,000 fishers and their families live in the coastal slum.

 From Emelia Ennin Abbey, Monrovia, Liberia