Ghana To Avert Fish Ban Threat

MR.NAYON BILIJO,MINISTER OF FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE DEVELOPMENT (4)The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development says it is taking steps to avert the threat by the European Union to ban fish import from Ghana if it does not halt the illegal trade in the industry.

Mr. Nayon Bilijo, the sector Minister in an interview with Times Business on his return from the 23rd regular meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which took place in Cape Town, South Africa from November 18-25 said the ministry would implement key decisions taken at the event to solve the problem.

He said despite the successful outcomes of the ICCAT meeting, there were still many challenges ahead of Ghana in the tuna fish sector.

The Minister highlighted, in particular, concerns about IUU fishing activities by Ghanaian vessels, resulting in the EU issuing a “yellow card” to Ghana, which is basically a warning that unless some corrective measures were urgently undertaken and implemented, tuna exports from Ghana into the EU market would be affected in the very near future.

He said some of the immediate actions his ministry would implement include a new tropical conservation and management measure and domestic measures to address international concerns about IUU fishing.

ICCAT is the international organisation, comprising forty-seven countries from all over the world, charged with the responsibility for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas.

Ghana has been an active contracting party to ICCAT since April 17, 1968 and is currently the second largest contributor of the ICCAT budget after EU and the highest contributor on individual country basis.

The European Commission proposed last week an EU-wide ban on fish imports from Cambodia, Belize and Guinea, saying they had not done enough to stamp out illegal fishing.

The European Union’s executive branch also warned Ghana and South Korea that they faced similar bans unless they took concrete steps to address the problem.

The European Union is the world’s top importer of fresh and frozen fish and seafood. It has been criticised for not doing enough to prevent fish caught illegally in other parts of the world from ending up on European dining tables.

The minister, however, expressed optimism that Ghana would be able to overcome the challenges, noting in particular the commitment and resolve of all sectors of the industry to work together and in close collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and the Fisheries Commission to ensure that Ghana’s fishing industry and image are protected internationally.

Ghana is the third tuna exporting country to the European Union (EU); with its 43 tuna vessels and 81 industrial bottom trawlers registered under the Ghana flag.

The fisheries sector, especially the tuna processing sector contributes significantly to Ghana’s socio-economic development, generating over US$1 billion in revenue each year and accounting for at least 4.5 per cent of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product.

The fisheries sector also contributes to an estimated 210,000 people directly employed and as many as 2.2 million people or 10 per cent of the population employed directly or indirectly in the sector.

According to international regulations developed through ICCAT and other international laws, all exported tuna products from Ghana are required to be free from illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.

On Ghana’s participation in the ICCAT meeting the minister said a strong contingent represented Ghana at the successful meeting

The Ghanaian delegation he said was led by himself and the rest, officials from the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, the Fisheries Commission and several industry representatives.

Mr Bilijo, noted that the meeting was the most successful ICCAT meeting Ghana had ever participated in.

The Ghanaian delegation he said was well prepared and effectively shaped significant aspects of the agenda for the meeting.

“I was extremely satisfied with the performance of the delegation and the outcomes achieved and I congratulate the entire delegation,” the minister said.

Ghana is the current chair of the Ministerial Conference of the African countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean, which stretch from Morocco to Namibia and was elected the spokesperson for the Africa group.

The three key matters of common interest for the Africa countries included, need for ICCAT to be modernised to reflect equity and fairness, particularly for African coastal states participation in the fishery, concerns about marginalisation of developing countries in the scientific process which underpins management decisions of ICCAT; and capacity building for developing countries generally to meet their ever-increasing tuna management responsibilities.

Ghana’s leadership role was recognised by other ICCAT members with the unanimous election of a member of the Ghanaian delegation, Professor Martin Tsamenyi, as chairman of the newly-established permanent working group on dialogue between scientists and managers of the next two years.

Other highlights of the ICCAT meeting for Ghana included several bilateral meetings with other countries and organisations, including the European Union, United States of America, the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations and the International Sustainable Seafood Foundation (ISSF). By Daniel Amoo


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