Twenty-six people suspected to be engaged in illegal fishing in Ghanaian waters were Monday arrested in a swoop by officials of the Fisheries Enforcement Unit (FIU) of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
The swoop carried out in collaboration with the Marine Police Unit saw quantities of generator sets, fishing lights and a quantity of mono-filament nets confiscated from the suspects.
The suspects were also believed to be engaged in dynamite fishing – the practice of using explosives to kill large numbers of fish for easy collection. This practice is considered illegal owing to the extreme destruction it could cause to the ecosystem.
The head of the Marine Police Unit, Superintendent Joseph Antwi-Ababio told the Daily Graphic in Tema that the suspects, who had been detained, would be put before court after investigations.
Mr Antwi-Ababio also stressed that the two entities were determined to push through for the prosecution of the suspects to serve as a deterrent to others.
“In many instances, most cases dealt with in the past were done through arbitration, which we have come to realise have rather gone to emboldened people to continually engage in illegal modes of fishing”, he reiterated.
The fisherfolk have however justified the continuous use of light and other methods of fishing, saying the slump in business had eroded their capital.
“We need to repay loans we have taken from various financial institutions, and the only way we can get some catch to defray our debts is to engage in light fishing and other methods which officials say have been banned”, Mr Eric Okpata Therson, spokesperson for the suspects told the Daily Graphic.
The National Coordinator of the FIU, Naval Capt. Emmanuel Kwafo stressed that whereas the Unit had undertaken a nationwide sensitisation programme among various fishing communities on the need to eradicate illegal modes of fishing, recalcitrant canoe owners were still engaged in the practice.
According to him, not even the seizure of equipment with which the canoe owners operate could deter the fishermen.
The fisherfolk, he said, have been made aware of the danger mono-filament net poses to the aquatic environment.
The nets, he pointed out, were non-biodegradable materials and as such remain a challenge to the survival of aquaculture.
The determination on the part of the fisherfolk in the illegal fishing mode, he indicated, had seen them often attack personnel of the Unit detailed on patrol rounds.
“We are therefore determined to exhaust the legal processes of prosecution of the suspects”, Capt. Kwafo said.
Capt. Kwafo pointed out that the activities of the fisherfolk continue to pose a danger to the life of whales in the sea.
The whales, he indicated, were often trapped in the throat after they swallow torn pieces of the illegal nets scattered in the sea and causing their untimely death.
He debunked reports that a number of whales found to have been washed ashore was as a result of oil spillage.
“There have been many instances where Whales dissected, were found to have pieces of illegal nets and basket pieces in their belly.” Capt. Kwafo explained.
He called for public support to ensure total protection of the country’s coastline so as to avoid a depletion of fish resources.