Accra, March 7, GNA - Eighteen communities, associations and individuals, Tuesday, received awards for adopting responsible fishing practices under the Sustainable Fisheries Management Projects (SMFP), run by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Fisheries Ministry.
Selected from communities along the four coastal regions: Greater Accra, Volta, Central and Western, they were presented with citations, plastic chairs, basins and some fishing gear, including fishing mesh.
They were honoured for their voluntary compliance and adoption of sustainable fishing and post-harvest practices.
Mrs Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, who presented an award at the ceremony, organised at the Nungua Landing Beach, in Accra, encouraged them to continue the compliance with the regulations and laws regarding fishing to ensure a better fishing industry.
The award ceremony was held under the theme: 'Rewarding Outstanding Voluntary Initiatives for Sustainable Fisheries'.
Mrs Quaye, who is also the Member of Parliament for Ledzokuku Krowor Constituency, where the Nungua landing beach is located, however, stated the many challenges that had beset the fishing industry and assured of the Government's resolve to tackle the challenges together with the people, to revamp and preserve the industry.
She said illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices such as light fishing, fishing with chemicals, and the use of undersize mesh and monofilament nets had been identified as the main causes for decline in fish catches in recent times.
'It is documented that Ghana's fisheries face imminent collapse if nothing is done to stop illegal fishing practices,' she warned. 'Fishers have now put aside their long held tradition of sustainable fishing and are doing everything possible to catch the last fish through illegal practices.
'This is not right and the illegalities must stop and give way to good, acceptable and responsible fisheries.'
She said it was also worrying to hear in the news that, 'The fish we eat is laced with obnoxious chemicals like formalin. Fishers need to be more responsible to safeguard the health of the citizenry'.
The Minister said the Fisheries Enforcement Unit (FEU) at the Sector Ministry would, therefore, strictly enforce the Fisheries Acts and regulations and also continue to educate the fishers on the dos and don'ts of the laws and regulations for voluntary compliance.
She said her Ministry would also continue to strengthen the Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) Division of Fisheries Commission to discharge their duty without fear, favour or interference.
She said since most fisheries infractions started from the beaches, the Ministry had started the training of fishermen and women as Fisheries Watch Volunteers at various landing beaches to assist the FEU and MCS in their education and enforcement activities.
The Minister commended the USAID for the support being given to Ghana and, particularly, the fishers to improve fishing stock in the country.
She, however, urged that all such awards should be harmonised with national awards ceremonies where fishers and farmers were awarded to improve the award packages on the National Farmers Day.
Mr Richard Chen, USAID/Ghana Mission Director said the effort by the fishers in preserving the fishing industry would help increase food security and rebuild Ghana's fish stocks in the long-term.
He said SFMP fell under the Feed the Future programme of the US Government's Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative and it played a crucial role in efforts at preserving Ghana's marine coastline and some of the nation's most important species of fish.
He said the award programme, therefore, was to spotlight outstanding leadership and dedication among individuals, communities and associations in the fishing sector, and that the categories ranged from the prevention of illegal fishing to improved post-harvest handling and processing.
'If everyone works together along the value chain including men, women, processors, traders, government agencies, then we can achieve a healthy, profitable and sustainable fishing industry in Ghana,' Mr Chen said.
Dr Brain Crawford, the Chief of Party of USAID SFMP, said the maiden award was aimed at recognising women and men who supported sustainable post-harvest practices and the preservation of Ghana's marine initiative; and also worked to rebuild fish stock and curbed overfishing.
'We want to shed the light on the many Ghanaians who are doing the right and positive things in the fishing sector through this award programme,' he noted.
King Dr Odarfio Welentsi III, Chief of Nungua, commended the awardees for their sense of nationalism in operating their businesses in a more acceptable way.
He expressed his happiness that the Nungua Landing Beach was awarded for initiating of the combatting of IUU Fishing Community Award.
Others were awarded for the most exemplary fishing practices, demonstrating exemplary practices skills and 'most outstanding fisheries leadership, among others.