Ghana: Illegal Fishing for Foreign Markets

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Illegal fishing is depleting the country’s fish stock but feeding the European and Asian Markets, stakeholders have observed.

Investigations have proven that t fishing vessels operating on the shores of Ghana are mostly engaged in illegal fishing and shipping their booty to the European and Asian Markets where they generate more profit.

Due to the use of obsolete fishing equipment’s and dilapidated canoes by local Fishermen they are unable to sail deeper into Ghanaian waters and make good catch. Meanwhile heavy fishing vessels registered in Ghana have become notorious for transporting their catch to some European and Chinese partner vessels which are then transported to Europe and China and some parts of Asia.

As enshrined in the guidelines for the registration and Licensing of Fishing Vessels. Ghanaian registered vessels are required to bring their catch to the shores of Ghana and undertake all the necessary documentations before they could export their catch, but this is not what is happening in the country.

Presently, it is stated that Most of the vessels registered in Ghana have European and Chinese Partners that await them on high Sea where they transfer all their catch into their partner vessels. When the catch is made in Ghanaian waters, the fish stocks are then transferred into the partner vessels and then shipped out of Ghanaian waters either to Europe or Asia.

The Director of Fisheries at the Ministry of Fisheries and Aqua Culture, Mr Michael Dadzie in an interview said owners of fishing vessels engaged in such acts have been warned severally to stop engaging in those acts since they would be severely penalized when apprehended.

He noted that in an effort to deepen, deter and eliminate illegal and unreported fishing in Ghanaian territorial waters, all Ghanaian Flagged and registered fishing vessels are being fitted with Vessels Monitoring System that will enable the fishing monitoring centers established by the Ministry to monitor the activities of the vessels.. He noted that Automated Information Systems transponders are also being installed on semi industrial vessels to help expand the scope of monitoring.

“With these systems in place, we no longer have to consult the gods to uncover illegalities being carried out by recalcitrant fishers” he stated.

Article 6.4 of the guidelines for the registration and Licensing of Fishing Vessels notes that to be able to sell to the EU markets and other markets, the company should satisfy the ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreement. But this regulation is daily flouted by some of these fishing vessels.

Currently, the annual fish requirement in Ghana is estimated at 980,000 metric tons although the total domestic production is 450,000 metric tons. Meanwhile over 430,000 metric tons amounting to US$150 million is spent annually to import fish into Ghana. “Obviously, there is a need for production system to respond to the deficit. This is why we are doing all we can to halt this illegal activities being undertaking by these foreign vessels”. Mr Dadzie stated.

The Minister of Fisheries, Elizabeth Afforley Quaye, warned Fishermen to stop fishing illegally since it impacts negatively on the economy of Ghana. “We are all responsible for what is happening. We must stop it. This time authorities are serious about dealing drastically with people engaged in such activities. It is a canker that is destroying our fishing industry. We must protect the fishing industry for our benefit and for the benefit of the future generation .light fishing; chemical fishing and using unapproved fishing for fishing expedition must stop. They are all illegal. When the task force begins its work and arrest you, you will be dealt with severely”, she noted.

James Amarty, a canoe owner and a retired Fisherman at James town is blaming the Fisheries commission for allowing industrial fishing vessels to engage in Pair trawling ; activities that have been banned by the government of Ghana . He says these vessels engage in pair trawling in the full glare of officials of the Fisheries Commission and nothing is done to arrest them instead local fishermen are the ones that are harassed by the government task force. “ if they are allowing the bigger vessels to engage in pair trawling , then they must allow us to also do our light fishing since that is what puts food on our table and helps us to take care of our families “ he stated.

The Chief fisherman of Aboadze, in the Western Region of Ghana, Nana Adams, in an interview also blamed the Fisheries commission for their failure to arrest fishing vessels that engage in illegal fishing and pair trawling. He said the officials of the commission know the vessels involved in the acts but refuse to arrest them because they silence them with money.

“I don’t think government will be successful in its fight against illegal fishing if the so called industrial fishing vessels are not arrested and the operators and owners engaged in pair trawling and illegal fishing, prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to the others. They are only harassing the local fishermen for engaging in light fishing, that’s using light to fish in the night.”, he stated.

Pair trawling when two vessels towing one single trawl. They open the trawl horizontally by keeping a distance when towing in a bid to sweet all the fishes the come across both big and small.

A total of 140 fishermen have been arrested across the coastal areas of Ghana for r engaging in illegal fishing activities. The suspects, including women and children were arrested by local watchdog committees set up with the support of the government of Ghana to prevent illegal fishing activities in the area.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has warned that any incident of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by a Ghana-flagged vessel will result in a total ban on fish products exported from Ghana to EU markets.

Source: Kwabena Adu Koranteng

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