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Fishing

The fishing resources off the Liberian coast in 1984 were believed to be considerable and included such well-known food fish as croaker, grunt, sea bream, mackerel, snapper, sole, grouper, tuna, and various sardines. Shrimp, rock lobster, crab, and oysters were also caught. Until 1955 commercial fishing had been carried out solely by Kru fishermen living along the coast and by the Fante from Ghana, whose enclave settlements were found in all larger towns and in some smaller coastal villages. Fishing was mainly by hand lines and small nets from dug?out canoes, some of which had outboard motors. Estimates of the total catch vary widely but have been as high as 5,000 tons a year.

The best fishing grounds lie a considerable distance off the coast. In 1955 exploitation began by the new Liberian-owned Mesurado Fishing Company, which used a fleet of small trawlers. By the early 1960s the company had established a number of cold storage facilities throughout the country, including at the Firestone plantation at Harbel, the iron mine at Bomi Hills, and the towns of Buchanan, Gbarnga, Nimba, and others. It also acquired refrigerated trucks. The modern commercial fish catch, largely by Mesurado, rose from about 1,180 tons in 1960 to almost 11,000 tons in 1975. Nearly 600 tons of shrimp were also taken that year and were quick frozen in a plant built by the company. The total catch, including that by Kru and Fante fishermen, met a substantial part of domestic demands until 1980, when output by Mesurado ceased because of financial constraints that prevented maintenance of its fleet in operating condition. The company continued to supply local demands, however, through imports, which amounted that year to 14,400 tons. Three new fishing companies began operations in 1982, and in mid-1983 Mesurado entered into a joint fishing venture with American interests. Details on Mesurado's subsequent operations were not available in 1984.

Inland subsistence fishing was carried on in the lagoons, swamps, streams, and rivers throughout the country. Rough estimates placed the catch at about 4 000 tons a year. The construction of fish ponds began after World War II, and in the early 1960s fish farming had received encouragement from the government. The extension of the frozen fish supply network by Mesurado appears to have reduced the market for pond fish. There was also the likelihood that the ponds had not been properly maintained, resulting in reduced output, and by the early 1970s many ponds were reportedly out of operation.

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