The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) has resorted to the use of drones to monitor and clamp down on illegal fishing in the country’s waters.
The technology, which will be part of a robust surveillance system, will also help to track foreign vessels that are operating illegally in Ghanaian waters.
The sector Minister, Mrs Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, disclosed this at a national stakeholders’ forum held in Accra yesterday.
She did not provide specific timelines for rolling out the initiative but hinted that “the ministry is likely to begin in the next few months”.
MoFAD organised the forum in collaboration with the Fisheries Commission and the West Africa Regional Fisheries Programme to discuss the impact of negative and illegal fishing methods in the fisheries sector and come up with workable solutions to the menace.
The dangers posed by illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, as well as the activities of foreign nationals in Ghanaian waters, were some of the issues that took centre stage.
The ceremony was attended by key players in the fisheries sector, government officials, Members of Parliament (MPs) from coastal communities, metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs), as well as associations in the fishing industry.
Some notable personalities at the forum were the Deputy Minister of Transport and MP for Tema East, Mr Daniel Nii Kwartei Titus-Glover; a former Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and MP for Anlo, Mr Clement Kofi Humado, and the MP for Klottey Korle, Dr Zanetor Rawlings.
Mrs Quaye said the ministry had revamped the Fisheries Enforcement Unit (FEU) to enable it to carry out effective monitoring at all landing beaches.
“We are ready to prosecute fisherfolk who fail to comply with the laws and regulations in the fisheries sector. To this end, judges, lawyers and police officers trained in fishery laws are prepared to deal with and efficiently prosecute offenders,” she said.
She said even though the ministry had rolled out a number of monitoring mechanisms to curb illegal fishing methods such as the use of poisonous chemicals, light fishing and under-sized nets, the practice still persisted among fisherfolk.
“More worrying is the current development where fishermen attack security personnel, FEU members and staff of MoFAD who are going about their legitimate duties,” she recounted.
She said anyone caught engaging in such acts would be made to face the appropriate sanctions and prosecution where necessary.
In solidarity messages, the MPs, government officials and other dignitaries underscored the need to protect fishery resources through strict adherence to laws and regulations governing the sector.
Mr Humado said, for instance, that the way forward was for MMDAs to incorporate the fisheries regulations into their by-laws to help check illegal fishing at the grass roots.
Dr Zanetor also called for proper sanitation management, stressing that: “People are being irresponsible in the management of refuse as most of it ended up in water bodies.
“What we do upstream affects what happens downstream,” she said, stressing the need to enforce proper sanitation and waste management practices in coastal communities, particularly as a means to restore fish stock.
The stakeholders called for a replication of national efforts in the fight against illegal mining to overcome the use of illegal fishing methods.