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Illegal fishing cost Ghana $50m in 2017

Ghana lost about 100,000 metric tonnes of fish amounting to about $50 million in 2017, through illegal fishing activities.

A research report conducted by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and Hen Mpoano, both non-governmental organisations, identified degradation of fish stock, misappropriation and depreciation of prices of fish particularly among foreign trawlers that often encroach in designated areas for local artisanal fishermen, as some illegalities resulting in the loss.

Themed “Stolen at sea”, the study aimed at providing an overview of the current scale and impact of “saiko” (a trading system, where industrial trawlers catch fish meant for small-scale fishermen and in turn sell to specially adapted canoes out at sea for higher profit.)

Giving highlights of the report, director of Hen Mpoano, Mr Kofi Agbogah said fish brought into the country through “saiko”, had resulted in severe decline of catches among artisanal fishers citing for instance that for every 80 saiko canoes landed at sea, it brought in fishes equivalent to 55 per cent of the entire fishing area for local fishermen.

“The employment provided by Ghana’s artisanal fishing sector far precedes the number of individuals employed in the saiko trade and should the illegality continue, it will lead to loss of jobs for the artisans.

“The artisanal sector provides direct employment for over 100,000 fishers across 292 landing sites in 186 coastal villages. Saiko allows industrial trawlers to effectively steal fish from small scale fishers before selling it back to local communities at a profit,” he pointed out.

Mr Agbogah indicated 90 per cent of these trawlers were linked mostly to Chinese owners, in spite of local laws prohibiting foreign ownership and control in the trawling sector.

He recommended that government as a matter of urgency issues a statement to clarify that “saiko” was illegal under the national fisheries law and investigate all suspected cases of “saiko” fishing.

The government, he argued should also carry out routine inspections of fishing gear and catches of industrial trawlers to ensure that they only targeted species of the type and size as dictated by their licences.

Mr Agbogah also urged authorities in the fishing sector to reduce the number of licensed trawlers and fishing days for easy regulation and to ensure that activities of industrial trawler were brought down to sustainable levels.

An economist, Prof. Wisdom Akpalu said the fishing industry contributes about three per cent of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country and 15 per cent to the agricultural sector.

Ghana, he said was currently importing 60 per cent of fish into the country and that aquaculture would not be sustainable in the next few years if the 25 per cent tax on feed was not reconsidered.

He called on government to tackle challenges in the sector head on by enforcing laws to the latter insisting that “moral persuasions do not work.”

BY ABIGAIL ANNOH AND DOROTHY BROCKE

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