A Ban on fishing will impoverish our fishing communities – Minority caucus

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Concerns have been expressed about the plight of fisherfolks and their dependents following the intended freeze the government plans to place on fishing in the country beginning August 7 to September 4, 2018 as announced by the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development.

The month long ban announced by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, a few days ago has ruffled some stakeholders in the fishing industry in Ghana as well as the political space in Parliament as it has been established that it breaches the Fisheries Act 2002.

While the government is extoling the possible benefits to be derived from the imposition of the moratorium on fishing industry in Ghana, the stakeholders along the production chain in the fishing industry are complaining that the decision would impoverish them.

Ghana has officially announced a one month ban on all forms of fishing in the country except for Tuna. It is in response to a recommendation by a Scientific and Technical Working Group (STWG), who have argued that there are eggs in the sardinella stocks and small pelagic that are found in the country’s waters around this time of the year and therefore deem it appropriate to close the fishery in August.

The conclusions of the Working Group were reliant on Data collected from Ghana’s waters by the Dr. Fridjof Nansen Vessel which had visited Ghana once in 2007, in April 2016 and August 2017.

The Minority Caucus in Parliament have estimated that the ban would directly affect some 13, 000 canoe owners and an average of 15 of their co-workers per canoe. This comes up to about 195,000 people who will be refused their right to fishing for a month, not to talk of the number of people employed by the over 75 active trawlers and 400 semi industrial vessels.

While they have called on the Akufo Addo led government to immediately rescind its decision to carry out the said moratorium on fishing activities, they have also pointed out that the government has failed to properly estimate the socio-economic and cultural implications of the decision on the large number of indirect dependents on the activities of fisher folks along the production chain.

Addressing a press conference in the premises of the Parliament of Ghana on Tuesday, 17th July, 2018, the Ranking Member on Parliament’s Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs Committee, Eric Opoku, highlighted the consequences of such a decision on the economic status of the fishing community across the country and its implications on the overall economy and also questioned the rationale and legality for the decision.

According to the Ranking Member who was flanked on his right by his Deputy Ranking, Samuel Abdulai Jabanyite and on his left by Nii Lantey Vanderpuje, the MP for Odododiodoo whose constituency harbors one of the most popular fishing communities in the city, and also supported by a number of the Minority MPs on the Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs Committee, they have had a number of complains from stakeholders in the fishing industry.

Their point is that the Minister’s directive is not grounded in law since Section 84(1) of the Fisheries Act 2002 (Act 625) grants the exclusive authority to the Fisheries Commission to declare areas of the Fisheries and riverine system of Ghana closed to fishing because they have the technical know-how and not the Minister.

Again, they fault the government for seeking to rely on such a data to take a decision which seeks to impoverish its fisher folks without having any alternative means to verify the authenticity of the advice since it is not in the best interest of its citizens.

Their contention is that, since the fish that is found in Ghanaians waters at this time of the year is only on a transition to other parts of the world, what is the guarantee that it will remain in Ghana’s Economic Exclusive Zone after the ban period for the fisher folks in the country to have their bumper catch.

They have therefore called on the government to invest into the purchase of its own Research Vessel in order to undertake its own research and proffer solutions that would inure to the benefit of the country.

The Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, has however resolved to implement the ban which is expected to replenish the country’s depleted fish stocks over the next three years. A phenomenon which is believed to have been caused by continues disregard for best fishing practices over the years.

According to Scientific research put forward by the Fisheries Ministry, during the period between August to September, pregnant fishes drift along the coast of Ghana to feed and spawn and therefore there was a need to stay the ban in order to allow these processes to go on unimpeded so that the fish stock can multiply to sustain the industry for generations ahead.

It is held that when these pregnant fishes drift along the coast to feed, they are unfortunately harvested instead of allowing them to reproduce, which has been erroneously referred to as the bumper harvest season by the fisher folks in the country.

Source: Clement Akoloh || afriwakeradio.com

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