FISH STOCKS IN GHANA’S MARINE WATERS FACE IMMINENT THREAT OF DEPLETION—USAID/GHANA SFMP

Fish stock assessment of Ghana’s marine waters and declining catches of small pelagic fish indicate an imminent threat of stock depletion, according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP).

 

Mr Maurice Knight, Chief of Party, SFMP, made this known at a meeting with Editors and Morning Show Hosts in Accra, last week.

 

The forum aimed to sensitize participants on the impact of unsustainable fishing effort and other practices that negatively affect the fisheries sector in order to support the SFMP to advance the cause of the industry and reverse the declining trend.

 

Mr Knight indicated that the depletion of fish stocks in Ghana’s marine waters would put food security and goals for economic growth and poverty reduction in fishing communities at risk.

 

He referred to a baseline study by SFMP, the results of which, he said, revealed  that declining fish catches, increasing reliance on imports to meet demand, a growing fish-trade gap, declining incomes, increasing poverty and declining nutritional well-being were disturbing outcomes for the future of Ghana and fishing communities.

 

He noted that the even though government had developed a National Fisheries Management Plan for the marine sector which provided a roadmap for improved management with the objective of reducing fishing effort to achieve sustainable yields, weak implementation  of the plan had made it impossible to reverse the  declining trends in fish stock levels.

 

He, therefore, urged government to redouble its efforts in that direction, while pledging the continuous support of SFMP to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and the Fisheries Commission in rebuilding fish stocks.

In a presentation, Mr Kofi Agboga, Senior Fisheries Advisor, SFMP, expressed concern about the serial degradation of fish stock levels in Ghana’s marine waters, describing it as a crisis situation which required drastic measures to reverse.

 

Mr Agboga attributed the situation to weak enforcement of fisheries regulations and, therefore, a dysfunctional fisheries governance system.

 

He explained that even though sections 52, 53, 54 and 55 of the Fisheries Act, 2002 (Act 625) made it mandatory for the District Assemblies to register and license canoes before they could operate, the law was not being enforced.

 

This, he said, had  led to large canoe numbers and overfishing, citing 14,000 canoes as unlicensed, adding that these canoes were not only operating illegally, but were also engaged in unreported and unregulated (IUU)fishing.

 

Mr Agboga said industrial vessels were now competing with artisanal fishermen for small pelagic fishing while under-declaring the total quantity of by-catches to the Fisheries Authorities.

 

There was, therefore, the need, he said, for standardization in order to check the too many illegalities as well as control the proliferation of fishing canoes.

 

He said a closed season was a key tool in reversing the declining fish stock levels and urged government to adopt best practices from countries like the Philippines and Norway, and invest heavily in the sector, adding that failure to do so would lead to a collapse of the fishing industry by the year 2030 and turn Ghana into an importer of fish.

 

In an address, Deputy Fisheries Minister, Francis Ato Cudjoe, disclosed that a new Fisheries Management Plan would be drawn as the implementation period of the current Plan would end in 2019.

 

Mr Cudjoe also disclosed that government would establish Marine Protection Zones to allow fish to spawn and that a Task Force had been established to undertake vessel inspections, while Vessel Monitoring Systems had also been instituted to enforce compliance with the 30-meter radius rule for artisanal fisheries and beyond for industrial vessels.

 

In addition, he said, the Ministry had trained observers who had been stationed on board the industrial fishing vessels to monitor their operations and check their illegal activities.

 

The Deputy Minister gave the assurance that government would work with the District Assemblies to enforce the law on canoe licensing and to control boat numbers, while Fisheries Volunteers had been engaged to fight IUU practices.

 

Furthermore, he said, MoFAD would, in August, this year, close the sea to all forms of fishing activities.

 

Mr Cudjoe noted, however, that even though the fisher folk along the coast were willing to co-operate to observe the Closed Season, those in the Greater Accra had raised objections on the timing which coincides with their annual Homowo festival celebration.

 

The Deputy Minister disclosed that the Fisheries Act would be reviewed to make it compulsory for the implementation of the 'Closed Season'.

 

The decision to close the season—an intervention to restock the depleting fish stocks in Ghanaian marine waters— in August is based on a scientific research which indicates that major spawning takes place around this time, and that if the fishes are left for that period, stocks will increase considerably, with one fish spawning up to 10 million fingerlings at a time.

 

Source: ISD (G.D. Zaney, Esq.)

 

Created: 05 July 2018
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