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Business News of Thursday, 28 May 2020


Watchdog says Ghana’s fisheries on brink of collapse as Chinese trawlers arrive

Fishing trawler [File Photo] Fishing trawler [File Photo]

Despite a moratorium on new fishing vessels by the Fisheries Commission, three new trawlers have arrived in Ghana from China and have been registered to the Ghanaian flag, the Business24 has gathered.

The new vessels are Yu Feng 1, 3 and 4, this according to the Environmental Justice Fisheries, ­ were all built in China in 2016 and were flying the Chinese flag before arriving in Ghana.

“They are now docked at Tema, registered under the Ghanaian flag and awaiting licensing by the Fisheries Commission,” the EJF said.

Per the government’s Fisheries Management Plan, the country’s fishery can sustain only 48 trawlers yet 76 trawlers have been licensed at the end of 2019.

“To protect Ghana’s food security and local livelihoods – especially important in these worrying times of Covid-19 – the government must ensure that the industrial fleet is a sustainable size,” EJF said.

Ghana’s National Canoe Fishermen Council (GNCFC) has since written to the Fisheries Commission opposing any decision to grant these vessels licences to fish in Ghana’s waters.

“We are firmly opposed to any decision to issue these newly arrived vessels with licenses to fish in Ghana’s waters.

The country is already confronted with major challenges in controlling the vessels that have existing licenses in Ghana. We continue to see large quantities of fish landed by saiko canoes at Elmina Fishing Harbour, even after government and industry committed to end the practice last November,” the GNCFC said.

The saiko trade – where trawlers illegally target the main catch of canoe fishers, transfer it at sea to specially adapted boats, and sell the stolen fish back to local communities ­– took an estimated 100,000 tonnes of fish in 2017.

This means that just 40 percent of catches were caught legally and reported to the government in that year.

Therefore, in reality, just 24-25 trawlers may be the most the fisheries can take – an issue requiring urgent scientific re-assessment.

Ghana’s fish populations are already in dire straits. Landings of sardinella have crashed by around 80% over the past twenty years.

As well as targeting the staple catch of the canoe fishers – small pelagic fish that include sardinella – EJF revealed that the vast majority of fish traded through saiko are juveniles. This, the watchdog said, is extremely worrying, since these young fish are crucial to population recovery.

It is believed that in Ghana, over 90 percent of industrial trawl vessels are linked to Chinese ownership, in spite of a prohibition on foreign ownership in Ghana’s industrial trawl sector, set out in Section 47 of the 2002 Fisheries Act, Act 625.

According to EJF’s Executive Director Steve Trent, “over-capacity in the fishing fleet in Ghana is driving a crisis that will decimate livelihoods and food security in coastal communities.

He said ensuring that all fishing is legal, ethical and sustainable has never been more important – as the world reels from the impact of Covid-19, communities will need these resources more than ever.

“The Fisheries Commission has the chance to do the right thing: heed scientific advice, refuse these trawlers a licence and protect Ghana’s fisheries and its people,” he added.