About 125 out of the 500 fishing vessels that operate in Tema return from daily fishing expeditions without a single catch, a new baseline report by some civil society and livelihood empowerment organisations has revealed.
The baseline survey was undertaken in the Western, Greater Accra, Volta Marine and Volta Inland geological areas, involving 1,080 smallholder fishers, traders and processors in 18 fishing communities across 13 metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs).
According to the Far Ban Bo Baseline Report, operators of the vessels, who are mainly smallholder fishermen, spent more than 20 hours searching for fish every day but recorded zero catch, a situation that negatively impacted on the livelihoods of the fisher folks and their dependants.
The Far Ban Bo is a European Union-funded fisheries governance project being implemented by CARE, Friends of the Nation (FoN) and Oxfam, in collaboration with key fishery stakeholders.
It is designed to help address the challenges of overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices, including illegal, unreported and unprotected fishing, low compliance and weak capacity for law enforcement within the sector.
The project is to contribute to the sustainable fisheries resources management to improve food security, nutrition and livelihoods of smallholder fisheries and other users of fishery resources.
The Programmes Manager of FoN, a partner of the project, Mr Kyei Kwadwo Yamoah, who disclosed this in Accra at a workshop to validate the report ahead of its official release, said the occurrences of average zero catch had increased in recent times in most local fishing communities.
“Fishing communities, including Axim, Dixcove, Shama, Anomabo, Apam and Winneba, report that oil exploration activities have contributed to the zero catch and subsequent decline in the country’s fish stock,” he said.
Scientific evidence indicates a gradual decrease in the stocks of fish within Ghana’s fisheries waters due to increasing fishing efforts.
A review of the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP) Fish Stock Report 2016 revealed that total landings had been in sharp decline since 2000, reaching its lowest level in 2015.
Touching on factors attributable to the decline, Mr Yamoah mentioned overfishing by smallholder fishers as a result of the increased number of fisher folks.
“The activities of oil exploration, climate change, activities of pair trawling vessels and foreign vessels and the use of chemicals and light for fishing are also some major activities responsible for the decline in the fish stock,” he added.
Income and livelihoods
According to Mr Yamoah, the report identified that the average monthly income for smallholder fishers from their fishing expedition was GH¢1,497.
The income, he stated, was usually shared among the crew members and the boat owner, using a traditional system referred to as ‘ebusa’, by which the income was divided into three equal parts.
“In sharing, the boat owner gets one-third, another third is shared among the crew members and the remaining third is saved for the maintenance of the vessel.
“With this arrangement, the annual average income of the smallholder fisher who doubles as a boat owner is GH¢9,547, which falls short of the national average of GH¢11,351 for rural coastal areas,” he said.
Mr Yamoah added that the situation was worse for the category of smallholder fishers who were crew members but not boat owners.
Save the fisheries sector
The Vice-President of the National Fish Processors and Traders Association, Mrs Emelia Abaka-Edu, called on the government to take the necessary steps to prevent illegal fishing to help rejuvenate the fishing sector.
She observed that the current trend, where the country’s fish stock was dwindling, was inimical to the growth of their business, hence the need to implement measures to reverse the trend in order to sustain fisheries resources.
“We are urging fisher folks to give up light fishing and the use of dynamite and other illegal fishing practices to save the sector,” she added.