Ghana was shown a ‘yellow card’ by the European Commission under the European Union (EU) Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) Regulation in 2013 as a result of the government’s failure to control the rapid growth of IUU fishing.
The ban was lifted in 2015 when the government showed commitment in addressing the issue of IUU. This, however, does not mean such issues are completely solved for the needed growth in the fisheries sector.
IUU fishing is a major threat to the global marine resources. The Trade and Communications Section of the EU estimates that between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally each year with an associated global value of up to 10 billion euros.
The recurrence of such cases in recent times necessitated the formation and inauguration of a fisheries watch volunteer group in the Greater Accra Region by the minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development.
However, her attempt to collaborate with stakeholders within this sector to monitor the beaches to enforce fishing regulations and infractions has come with stiff opposition from fishermen and women.
The question then is; are the fishers not aware of the glaring dangers of illegal fishing activities? Well, the interaction I had with some members of their various associations indicated their own frustration over these illegal fishing activities.
Peace Abla Gabor is the Central Regional Chairperson of the National Fish Processors and Traders Association (NAFPTA) and she believes it will take only stringent measures to deal with the issue. “Illegal fishing issues are discussed at our meetings, but they still flout the regulations. Not until the rules are tightened will we make any headway,” she said.
The benefit of fish products cannot be overestimated, because of their high consumption rate among Ghanaians; but do you pause for a moment to think of how our fisherfolk get our favourite fishes for the market? In the quest to get their catch for the day, some fishermen resort to the use of chemicals such as DDT, carbide and dynamite. This practice has bedevilled the sector for the past years, but how long must this continue?
Grace Bondzie is a fishmonger at Apam and she attests to the short shelf life of the fishes she processes as a result of these bad fishing practices. “When the fishermen use those chemicals for their catch, the fish becomes weak and does not last when processed. In the 70s, when I was growing up, I realised how much my mum was getting from this business and that encouraged me to take after her business. The story is different now because the fish we process these days go bad easily. In those days, we could keep the fish we dry for so long and it will still taste good. These days, after few weeks, the fish you have spent time to dry begin to go bad. And I believe this is as a result of the bad fishing methods our fishermen employ,” she bemoaned.
A relook at issues of IUU has become important as all organisations and agencies working in the fisheries sector need to come on board to tackle the menace. Remember if fishermen bring unwholesome fish, it affects our health and the broader economic impact is the risk we stand of another ban from the EU if uncontrolled.
To strengthen corrective measures instituted by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, the EU has committed funds in a four-year fisheries governance project, ‘Far Ban Bo’, to protect fisheries livelihood.
The project seeks to collaborate with key fishery stakeholders, smallholder fishery associations, the Fisheries Commission, Fisheries Alliance, among other partners, to address the challenges of overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices such as IUU fishing, low compliance and weak capacity for law enforcement within this sector.
The ‘Far Ban Bo’ project will cover 30 districts in the Western, Central, Greater Accra and Volta regions and will work closely with key fisheries stakeholders in the marine and inland fisheries sector.
It will be implemented by a consortium consisting of CARE, Friends of the Nation (FoN) and Oxfam.
This project will also focus on tenure rights security for fish landing sites and pilot mechanisms for grievances and dispute resolution among the fisher groups. The project hopes to strengthen the capacity of fishery associations to engage in equitable fisheries governance and promote the safeguarding of livelihood for vulnerable smallholder fishers.