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Opinions of Thursday, 21 November 2013

Columnist: Owusu-Ofori, Nana

Fisher Folks have no future ..... a Mahama led Administration

As I listen and later read the budget statement from the Minister of Finance Seth Tekper, I could not help but notice that the future of a whole group of people seemed rather bleak in the 263 page document. In 2011 the Fishing industry grew by -8.7%. In 2012 it missed its growth rate target and accomplished 2.3%. The fisheries growth was “partly due to the significant investments in the aquaculture component of the Youth in Agricultural Programme.”

What is the real growth in the over 2 million folks who are involved in deep sea fishing? There is nominal growth in that sector. The sector is important from a gender perspective. Men are involved in fish harvesting, undertaking the main fishing activities in the artisanal, semi-industrial and the industrial sectors while women are the key players in on-shore post-harvest activities, undertaking fish processing and storage and trade activities. Many are also engaged in the frozen fish distribution trade as well as marketing fish within and outside the country. It is estimated that a total of 500,000 fishermen, fish processors, traders and boat builders are employed in the Fisheries Sector. These people, together with their dependents, account for about 10 per cent of the population.

If Government does not pay attention to our fishing industry, then government is gradually killing off our mothers, denying them an opportunity for a better Ghana.

The budget says nothing about improving the lives of these fishing industry people particularly those based along the coast. It is good that people are being trained in inland aquaculture, but what is being done to improve the lives of the fisher folk who’s gradually finding him/herself out of livelihood. Declining catches are devastating Ghana’s fishing industry. They have been falling since the mid-1980s destroying the livelihoods of the 2 million-strong workforce. The artisanal sector is particularly badly hit. Ghana, the fourth largest consumer of fish in Africa, now has to import fish to meet demand.

We are aware of the causative factors of the decline of the fishing industry. Pre-mix fuel has been made a political tool in the attempt to control fisher folks. If one does not belong to a specific party, then one (even though a fisher folk) does not get pre mix to buy to maintain their livelihood. Cases such as pair trawling is not enforced by the relevant authorities and as such gives room to foreign fishermen with larger vessels to effectively scrape our ocean bed of our fish big and small. It is widely thought that foreign vessels fish illegally in Ghana’s waters which the navy does not have the capacity to police effectively. Factory ships lurking beyond the horizon buy valuable fish such as tuna on a black market from the artisanal fleet for exportation to Europe and Asia.

The Government has erred in its approach to the fishing industry. Many people will be displaced without a livelihood. Government continues to look on as 2 million people are brought to the verge of being extinct.

Ghana is for ALL of us and we should not stand by as a portion of us face economic genocide.

We deserve Better!!!!!! Nana Owusu-Ofori Director of Operations PPP 0501278158