It is estimated that over 90% of industrial trawlers operating in Ghana have some form of Chinese involvement.
This suggests that foreign interests, particularly from China, are widespread within Ghana’s industrial trawl sector, which is illegal.
However, details of beneficial ownership are not disclosed to the public, with only the Ghanaian licence holder published in the list of licensed trawlers on the Ministry of Fisheries’ website.
According to a report by the Environmental Justice Foundation, the government of Ghana must put in place some transparency measures as a matter of priority and, where relevant, enshrine these measures as mandatory requirements in future fisheries law framework.
The measures include the publication of an annual report providing a detailed and up-to-date assessment of progress toward implementation of the 2015-2019 Fisheries Management Plan and the mandatory publication of a five-year fisheries management plan based on best available scientific evidence in the future fisheries law.
Others are the publication of licensing conditions for vessels fishing in the Ghanaian EEZ, including the number of allocated fishing days per vessel; the publication of the updated register of vessels flagged to Ghana, including key data such as vessel name [and] tonnage; the expansion of developments under the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative with regard to transparency of information on beneficial ownership to the fisheries sector and the strict enforcement of the prohibition against Saiko (a Chinese shipping vessel).
A recent study estimated that around 100,000 metric tonnes of fish were traded through Saiko in 2017, with an estimated landed value of US$34-65 million.
At the same time, industrial trawlers reported landings of around 67,000 tonnes of fish in 2017, suggesting a reporting rate of just 40% of total catches. This has significantly affected local fishing stock, a situation which the fishermen have complained bitterly about.
The report said: “Despite being prohibited under the 2010 Fisheries Regulations, a low-risk of arrest and sanction has meant that Saiko has been on the increase in recent years. In 2017, 62 Saiko canoes were recorded operating out of Elmina port, more than double the number of canoes counted in 2015.”
It added: “Concealment of beneficial ownership is problematic for a number of reasons. Critically, where illegalities are present, it may not be possible to hold the true beneficiaries to account for their illegal practices and sanction them accordingly.”
The report, therefore, called for strict enforcement of the prohibition against Saiko and ensure that trans-shipment at sea from industrial trawlers to canoes remains illegal in any form under the future fisheries law framework.