Ghana’s aquaculture sector is asking the country’s Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MFAD) to renew and enforce a ban on the importation of tilapia, and to put greater focus on tackling persistent illegal fishing activities around Volta Lake.
The Ghana Aquaculture Stakeholders (GAS) Group has submitted a petition, calling for urgent and decisive action on banning tilapia imports to address a worsening crisis in the aquaculture sector linked to the emergence of diseases that have decimated the tilapia population in Volta Lake. The petition was submitted by GAS founder Patricia Safo to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Kingsley Ato Cudjoe.
Ghana has linked the disease outbreak to viruses introduced in the country’s waters from Southeast Asia. As a result, GAS wants enforcement of a total ban on the importation of all tilapia – alive or dead – into Ghana and also calls for the restructuring and adequate resourcing of the country’s fisheries enforcement unit to make it more effective in enforcing the moratorium.
In addition, GAS has called for government support in the launch of subsidized and monitored fish vaccination to enable fish farmers to restock their farms after a recent survey indicated more than 60 percent of their tilapia has been wiped out by the tilapia lake virus.
A survey carried out this year on 19 tilapia farms around Volta Lake by JCS Investments Limited – a microfinance equity fund adviser – discovered the drop in the survival rate of fish produced between 2017 and 2019. The survey’s estimates put the rate at 38 percent, compared to 53 percent and 59 percent in 2018 and 2017, respectively, “reflecting very high levels of mortality.”
“The only fish feed production farm in the survey averaged 34,000 [metric tons] in 2017-2018, but fell to 15,000 [metric tons] in 2019, representing a sharp decline of over 50 percent in feed production,” the survey report said.
Ghana, which by 2017 reported earning USD 1 billion (EUR 900 million) from the fishing industry, has previously in 2014 and 2018 imposed a ban in tilapia importation, but the restrictions do not seem to have been effective.
GAS now says the West African country’s aquaculture sector can thrive but the government must work with the private sector in ensuring “high standards need to apply to all, with activity limited to approved and accredited genetic strains of fish.”
According to the Ghana Fish Regulations 2010 importation of fish is allowed on condition the importer possesses an accompanying health certificate signed by a competent authority of the exporting country and which specifies the origin of the fish on the certificate.
Ghana’s Fish Commission has the mandate to issue permits to importers to bring into the country live fish or exotic fish species including eggs and gametes for purposes of aquaculture. Such a permission includes the importation of ornamental fish species.
Currently, the share of aquaculture in Ghana’s total catch is estimated at 12.8 percent with marine and inland production taking up 70.1 percent and 17.1 percent, respectively.