Government subsidies in the fishing sector have been identified by fisheries stakeholders as one of the contributing factors to the overcapacity and overexploitation of fisheries resources.
The premix fuel subsidy and tax waivers cost the Government of Ghana $44 million annually while outboard engine subsidy also cost the people of Ghana over $4.5 million a year.
The stakeholders believed that fishermen and other fisheries actors would be better off without the capacity-enhancing subsidies, and that funds used toward these programmes could be redirected to projects that promoted conservation, research, monitoring and enforcement of fisheries laws and regulations.
The Ghanaian artisanal fishery or canoe fisheries sub-sector had been characterised by increased fishing intensity and dwindling stocks and catches over the past decades.
This had been attributed to overexploitation of marine resources, as well as inadequate enforcement of fisheries rules and regulations.
These concerns were raised during the third-year annual multi-stakeholder meeting of the Central and Western Fishmongers Improvement Association (CEWEFIA) on rebuilding Ghana’s marine fisheries and reducing Child Labour and Trafficking (CLaT) in the fisheries value chain.
The CEWEFIA is an implementing partner in the five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Fisheries Ministry Sustainable Fisheries Management Projects (SMFP).
The meeting was to take stock of the successes and challenges in the implementation of the SFMP and to receive inputs from stakeholders. The stakeholders were of the view that government subsidies only went a long way to exacerbate the pace of overcapacity and overexploitation of fisheries resources.
They explained that such subsidies promoted increased fishing effort, overexploitation of fish stocks, lowers fishing productivity in the long run, and made fishermen, boat owners and everyone in the fishery sub-sector poorer.
They recommended to government to be bold to establish closed season of between two and three months with cash compensation to the sector for non fishing while fishing laws and regulations were strictly enforced.
Nana Kwegya VII, chief fisherman of Moree, admitted that phasing out government capacity-enhancing subsidies in fisheries could result in severe short-term socio-economic consequences.
However, he said redirecting investment toward programmes that would make fishermen and fisheries stakeholders better off in the medium to long term was laudable.
Another challenge, he said, was the negative activities of foreign vessels, popularly known as “Saiko” on the sector, and urged the government to ban them from Ghanaian waters.
Godfried Hanu, KEEA Zonal Officer of the Fisheries Commission, enumerated how politicisation of fisheries issues was affecting efforts by the commission to enforce fisheries laws and regulations.
Mrs Victoria Churchill Koomson, Executive Director of CEWEFIA, described the three years of the existence of the USAID SFMP as very successful as it has helped build capacity of many fishmongers on how to manage their finances.
She said CEWEFIA, as an implementing partner, would continue to embark on campaigns on hygienic fish handling and healthy fish and also intensify their efforts in sensitising fish processors on the benefits of the use of the ‘Ahoto oven'.
In a presentation on activities undertaken in the year under review, Miss Josephine Opare Addo, Western Regional Project Officer of CEWEFIA, said 309 fish processors had been trained on financing management, bookkeeping, costing and savings.