ACCRA, Ghana — At an open shed along the coast of Bortianor in Accra, one can hear the chatter of market women who hang around the landing beach most mornings in hope of buying fish to trade as fishers pull their nets miles away to the shore.
“Sometimes, it takes as long as four hours to bring our nets ashore,” artisanal fisherman George Kowukumeh said. “And over the years, we have witnessed a drastic reduction in our catch.”
There are currently about 150 fishing canoes operating at the Bortianor landing beach, according to industry experts.
In Ghana, the artisanal fishing sector directly employ over 200,000 fishers, delivering 80 percent of total fish supply locally and provides livelihood to over 2 million people, including thousands of market women in the value chain.
When it comes to fish, Ghanaian women have traditionally been confined to processing and retailing. The role of women is significant because they add value to fresh fish through processing, while distributing and preserving fish to ensure its availability long after the peak season and allowing it to reach consumers far from the landing beach.
However, the near collapse of the pelagic fish stock, which is the main target for artisanal fishers, has left fishers and women in the value chain vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
A two-month investigation by Gideon Sarpong based on interviews with dozens of fishery experts, researchers, fishers and women in the value chain has shown declining income levels for thousands of fishing households partly blamed on climate change and the rise in ocean temperature. A non-existent government intervention program to support fishing communities, particularly women who are very vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, has left them to their fate.
It is over three hours since the fishers began pulling their nets at the Bortianor landing beach. There is an obvious anxiety among the market women and fishmongers gathered at the shore who buy their fish directly from the fishers.
Agnes Lamptey, a fishmonger for over 30 years, explains the reason for the anxiety: “When there is no catch, we do not get any fish to process for selling. We can’t even provide for our children. My children are in high school and are forced to stay at home when there is a meagre catch.”
Moments after the conversation with Agnes, the fishers manage to bring their catch to the shore. “The catch today is disappointing and full of garbage,” local fisher George Kowukumeh said. “Several hours of very hard work has produced less than 500 cedis ($62) worth of fish for the 9-member crew, what do we do with this?”