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Ebola Strains Fishing Industry

LIBERIA

The Ebola crisis is taking a heavy toll on the fishing industry in western Liberia on the border with Sierra Leone.


Fanti Town, in the provincial capital of Robertsport, is one of the biggest fishing communities of the county, attracting seamen from across Liberia and nearby countries.

The number of fishing boats and canoes parked on the seashore and the abandoned fire pits normally used to dry the day's catch say it all: The once booming fishing business - the livelihood of most of Fanti Town's residents - is just another aspect of Liberian life sickened by Ebola.

As the demand for marine products has fallen, so has the fishermen's passion for their game.

Charles Eshun, a leader of the Fanti Town fishermen, said their activities in Robertsport are nearly dormant, with no more big sales or catches.

Fisherman Wotorson Weah, sitting on a boat along with his helpers cleaning his net, said the Ebola outbreak initially halted all of their activities.

“We were told by the authorities not to go on fishing expeditions for one month. But after a while, they gave us the green light to start again,” he explained.

Wotorson said because of the Ebola crisis and government-imposed curfew, they have cut their hours on water. When they cannot make it back to shore before the central government curfew, which runs from 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM throughout the country, they are sometimes stuck spending the night on the open water.

Fishermen are frustrated with Ebola's "trickle down effects" on wholesale and retail fish dryers, as Madam Mamie John, an elderly woman explains:

“Getting ahold of fish to dry is difficult these days, and when you are even lucky to get some, there are few or no buyers.”

Her experience is shared by several other women in the retail, fish-drying business, including Abba Tandor.

Tandor told TMP that “customers are not buying nowadays, and even if you have buyers, they want to pay very little."

As the war on Ebola drags on, the adverse effects on livelihoods grow worse. The fishing industry in western Liberia is crumbling by the day, which puts dangerous pressure on this local economy dependent on fishing and cassava farming.

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