Ghana’s fisheries sector, like many other developing and third-world countries, is in anticipation to benefit from a European Union (EU) level Sustainable Corporate Governance directive that seeks to tackle the negative impacts from EU consumption of fish caught through illegal activities across the globe.
The upcoming legislation, which is expected to be implemented this year, seeks to safeguard the EU’s strategic autonomy and take a leading role in a fair global transition toward a more equitable and sustainable future.
Documents available to the B&FT from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) indicate that the EU is committed to eradicating human rights and environmental abuses by EU business and consumer value chains – particularly in the global fisheries sector.
The legislative framework was expected in mid-2021 but is yet to be delivered, as sustainability-oriented organisations including the EJF, Oceana and the Nature Conservation are strongly encouraging the EU to deliver on its promises of a robust and world-leading sustainable corporate governance law – covering mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (mHREDD) in all countries where the EU sources its fish.
When rolled out, the directive will apply to the entirety of the global value chain – including the seafood and fish products sectors – while collaborating with non-EU countries to improve meaningful compliance with international obligations.
Ghana’s history of non-compliance with illegal fishing policy
The EU, last year, warned that Ghana risks sanctions “as a non-cooperating country in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing”.
The warning, delivered in the form of a yellow card in conformity with industry administrative measures, said “the decision is based on various shortcomings in Ghana’s ability to comply with its duties under international law as a flag, port, coastal or market state”.
The country once received a yellow card in November 2013, which was lifted in October 2015 after it addressed the relevant shortcomings. However, the EJF has estimated that Ghana loses more than US$200million to illegal fishing annually with the canker still endemic.
President Nana Akufo-Addo, at the recentOne Ocean Summit held in Brest, France, noted that illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities have contributed significantly to a decline in fish stocks and the economy as a whole; with such acts compelling Ghana to spend some US$200million annually on importing fish to shore-up fish requirements.
Background to the upcoming EU legislation
EU consumption continues to fuel the ‘Triple Emergency’ of climate change, biodiversity loss and poverty. The EU consumes 1.5 to 2.5 times more land, carbon and water per capita than the global average; and EU value chains are riddled with abuses of human rights and the environment.
Seafood is a salient example – where the EU seafood market is the world’s largest in terms of value. In 2017, each EU citizen ate on average over 24 kilogrammes (kg) of seafood, 75 percent of which was caught in the wild. To meet this demand, 60 percent of the seafood consumed in the EU is imported.
However, a lack of transparency creates opportunities for bringing illegally caught seafood into legal supply chains in Europe. An estimated total of 11 to 26 million tonnes of seafood is illegally plundered from the ocean every year – amounting globally to losses worth US$10billion to US$23.5billion.
In the EU, roughly two in six seafood products imported are untraceable and at risk of being sourced from illegal fishing. Illegal fishing often goes hand-in-hand with environmental and human rights abuse, including overfishing and forced labour. Under current EU rules, it is almost impossible for consumers to know that the fish on their plates does not come from vessels linked to such abuse – hence the proposed legislation.