The Fisheries Commision under the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development has rolled out a tentative programme to train and educate fish processors and traders along the coastal belt of the Western Region on the use of the “Ahotor Oven” to ensure hygienic handling of fish from the sea before it gets to the final consumer.
The programme which had engaged fish processors and traders in other parts of the country,aims at fish preservation in a bid to ensure food security and sufficiency and boost the fishing industry.
It was organized by the Fisheries Commissions in collaboration with the National Fish Processing and Traders Association(NAFPTA) and sponsored by the World Bank under the theme,”Business-Oriented Fish Processing and Marketing for Sustainable Fisheries and Livelihoods”.
The training session brought together thirty fish processors and traders from six Districts namely, the Jomoro,Ellembelle,Nzema-East,Ahanta-West,the STMA and Shama all in the Western Region.
The Western Regional Director at the Fisheries Commission,Mr.Alex Sabah who opened the training session at Dixcove in the Ahanta-West District of the Western Region,said the national average consumption of fish was 23kg per annum which poses a drain on the fish stock.
He emphasized the economic benefit of the fishing industry to the Gross Domestic Product(GDP) and the health of Ghanaians and expressed grave concern on the decline of the fish stock in the country”s waters.
Mr.Sabah explained that the fish stock was in crisis as most fishers fish out small species which have low nutritional quality and urged the fisheries enforcement units to redouble their efforts to stem the tide.
He said the training forms part of an action plan of reducing pressure on fish stocks through education and the introduction of alternative and supplementary livelihoods to boost the income of fishers.
He said though fishing was viewed as a traditional activity which had engaged the services of many people,there was the need for proper regulation in fishing activities.
Speaking on the topic,Fisheries Regulations-The Role of Fish Processors and Traders in Enforcement,a Senior Fisheries Officer in the Western sector of Ghana,Mr,Theodore Kwadjosse underscored fish processing as the single most important process within the fish food production chain.
He was also worried that fisher folks were depleting the fish stock due to anti-social human behaviour such as light fishing as well as the landings of small pelagics.
Mr.Kwadjosse reminded fisher folks that the Fisheries Act 625 offers protection of gravid and juvenile fish and warned fishers and the final consumer that “it was an offence punishable by law to be in possession of illegally caught fish”.
He also warned fishers who use under meshed size net for fishing expeditions to halt the practice as it contributed to a depletion of the fish stock.
He appealed to fish processors to embrace the Ahotor Oven as it offers more market opportunities with less firewood,less smoke,less health risk,greener mangroves and forest ,high quality smoked fish leading to a healthier consumer.
A Fisheries Officer at the Post-Harvest Unit of the Fisheries Commission in Accra,Madam Yaa Tiwaah Amoah said the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development had developed an action plan to train more masons to learn how to build the Ahotor Oven for fish processors and traders.
She said the Oven was a more hygienic way to preserve fish to avoid post-harvest losses.
Madam Amoah said the programme formed part of sustainable Fisheries project embarked upon by government to streamline activities in the fishing industry.
The Deputy Group Officer at the Ghana National Fire Service(GNFS) in the Ahanta-West District, DGO,Grace Cudjoe in a simulation exercise,used the occasion to educate the fish processors and traders on fire safety measures to avoid fire outbreaks in the course of smoking fish.
She took the fish processors and traders through the act of using fire extinguishers in times of fire outbreaks and appealed to them to put their fire off after smoking.