The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has commended the Fisheries Commission for reversing an earlier decision to allow tuna vessels to use light to fish but urged the commission to work within the fisheries law to ensure transparency.
According to EJF, the decision to grant an exemption for tuna vessels was against Ghanaian law in the first place, and the fact that it was only rescinded after the canoe fishers voiced objections raises questions around transparency in fisheries decision-making.
In April, the Fisheries Commission granted an exemption to allow tuna vessels to engage in light fishing, following pressure from the Ghana Tuna Association. The vessels were permitted to use the method to catch bait in the waters off Saltpond and Keta.
Tuna vessels use live bait fish, such as anchovies and sardinella, in their pole and line fishing operations.
However, in the wake of the decision, tensions grew with canoe fishers, who are not allowed to use this fishing practice.
Ghana’s Navy, which is responsible for enforcement at sea, emphasised in a letter to the commission that light fishing is prohibited and expressed concerns that the exemption for tuna vessels could result in tensions between the navy and fishing communities.
On 8 May, the Navy proceeded to arrest two tuna vessels for light fishing in the waters off Keta, in spite of the exemption.
Executive Director of EJF Steve Trent said the commission made the right choice in reversing the decision to allow light fishing by tuna vessels, but the case raises grave concerns.
“Why was the decision made in the first place without consultation of the affected fishing communities and without basis in law? Transparency and inclusiveness in fisheries decision making is crucial to protect fish populations, livelihoods and food security in Ghana,” he said.