| President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo
The President of the Republic, Nana Akufo-Addo, has strongly advocated for enhanced international co-operation for effective monitoring, and a severe sanctions regime to address the problem of illegal and unregulated fishing.
With West Africa having one of the world’s most productive fishing grounds, which attract commercial vessels that supply the markets of Europe and Asia, President Akufo-Addo noted that Ghana has experienced a major decline in its fish stocks due to activities linked to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing methods by foreign-owned vessels.
“The growing incidence of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is, therefore, of significant concern to Ghana, as it contributes to overexploitation and the depletion of fish stocks in our waters, as well as globally,” the President said, adding that his government intends “to devote greater national resources to combat this menace to our marine resources.”
President Akufo-Addo made this known when he delivered a speech at the United Nations Oceans Conference on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development), which is taking place in New York, USA.
Additional measures to combat the illegal fishing menace, according to the President, have led to government, with assistance from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, developing an elaborated Plan of Action consisting of a 20-point action plan to address issues ranging from regional fisheries management and market mechanisms, to the use of port and flag state controls.
He thus, urged, member countries of the United Nations to ratify the Fish Stock Agreement and the Agreement on Port State Measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, stressing that “Ghana has ratified both instruments.”
President Akufo-Addo also decried unfair competition, in the form of fish subsidies and non-tariff measures, which, he said, is having a negative impact on trade in fish.
“Ghana calls for the swift conclusion of WTO negotiations in addressing this issue, and hopes that, in the interest of the health of our oceans and the sustainability of the global fishing industry, subsidies that encourage overcapacity and overfishing will be prohibited sooner rather than later,” he said.
The President continued, “The speed, with which the world community concludes such an agreement, will be a truer reflection of the sincerity of the commitment to the preservation of the health of our oceans, than any amount of words and official declarations in this regard.”
Climate change having adverse effect on oceans
President Akufo-Addo noted that the health of our planet and our peoples is inextricably linked to the health of our oceans, as the oceans cover more than 70 per cent of Earth’s surface, and account for the very origins of life.
“The world’s oceans provide food and sustenance, mineral resources, energy, employment and livelihoods, transport and recreation. The wealth of resources, that oceans provide, forms an important part of the common heritage of mankind, and we owe it to ourselves and to succeeding generations to conserve this natural heritage,” he said.
It is for this reason that the President bemoaned the impact of climate change on the oceans, describing it as “alarming, and likely to exacerbate the existing impacts of anthropogenic activities in the marine environment.”
The gradual warming of our oceans and increasing acidification, and their effects on the marine environment and resources, he said, “need to be addressed through the speedy implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which many Member States have signed and ratified, including Ghana, and which represents the blue print for global action to reverse this trend.”
President Akufo-Addo, thus, described the recent announcement of the withdrawal of the USA from the agreement as “a disturbing development, which Ghana believes, like the majority of the global community, requires urgent reconsideration by the new US administration. We have to work together to protect our planet.”
Implement SDG 14
Ghana, according to President Akufo-Addo, believes that implementation of SDG 14 must also encompass continental approaches, and build on continental arrangements and initiatives, such as the AU’s 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy) and the declaration of the Decade of Africa’s Seas and Oceans.
In support of this, President Akufo-Addo indicated that Ghana has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which has at its core the integration of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of ocean activities.
“We believe that the Convention provides a good legal framework, within which our efforts towards the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources can be situated. We urge speedy implementation of the 35 year old Convention and assistance to states parties to that end,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo announced that his government, on behalf of the people of Ghana, is able to pledge two commitments towards the implementation of SDG 14. Eliminating pollution along the country’s coast and significantly reduce pollution in the marine ecosystem by 2025, by tackling the current challenges posed by use of plastics and indiscriminate disposal of waste, he said, will be done.
“We will complete the assessment of ecologically sensitive areas along the Ghana coast, and designate Ghana’s first marine protected area by 2025, to safeguard coastal and marine biodiversity,” he added.