Some stakeholders in the fisheries sub-sector have called on the government to take immediate steps to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities in Ghana's marine sector.
The Canoe and Fishing Gear Owners, the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council (GNCFC) and a fisheries scientist, Professor Francis Kofi Ewusie Nunoo, are not happy about Ghana attracting a yellow card from the European Union, where much of Ghana’s tuna and other fish stock land.
They averred that a quick action was necessary to avert full blown sanctions from the European Union.
The EU on June 2 this year issued a yellow card to Ghana as a result of the country's non-cooperation in the fight against IUU.
The “Yellow Card” is an official warning issued by the EU to trading partners failing to address shortcomings in their fisheries governance, particularly on IUU fishing.
Activities such as Saiko, the use of small mesh size, light fishing, fishing with chemicals and explosives, fishing outside fishing boundaries, landing of juvenile fishes, among others, are all classified as illegal and unreported fishing.
These activities, experts believe, deplete fish stocks, destroy marine habitats, distort competition, among other negative effects.
According to the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the EU Commission, Virginijus Sinkevi?ius, Ghana had been identified as a non-cooperating country in the fight against IUU fishing.
The commission’s letter said that whereas Ghana played an important role in fisheries governance in West Africa, the country’s commitment towards zero tolerance for IUU fishing had been poor.
An executive member of the Canoe and Fishing Gear Owners Association of Ghana, Nana Kweigyah, who spoke on behalf of the association, said they were saddened by the yellow card warning, saying it indicated that Ghana was not managing its fisheries resources appropriately.
"However, we are not surprised at the yellow card warning issued to Ghana because the signs were clear on the walls that little was being done to stop IUU fishing in Ghana,” he added.
On how Ghana could redeem its image, he suggested that the government stopped transshipment activities, popularly referred to as 'Saiko', in Ghana.
Saiko, he said, was the most destructive form of IUU, and that it was worrying that it was festering in spite of the numerous national and international laws governing marine fishing.
"We have breached our own laws that govern our fisheries and the many international laws and regulations," Nana Kweigyah said.
He said members of the association, who were investors and owners of canoes, had a role to play because they decided on the gears fishermen used for their trade.
"We are resolute to help the government combat IUU," he said.
In line with this resolution, he said the association, in collaboration with the Centre for Coastal Management, was planning to educate artisanal fishermen on the best methods of fishing and appropriate gears they must use.
A National Executive Member of the GNCFC, Nana Joojo Solomon, said: "It is a clear sign that we need to sit up and do the right thing. We have been advocating against IUU for some time now, and now the reality has dawned on us".
He called on collaborators in the fisheries sector, including fisherfolk, regulators and enforcement agencies to team up to end IUU fishing in Ghana.
"It is against the law to engage in illegal fishing. Our laws and international laws such as the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) have made it clear that we cannot use monofilament net for fishing, we cannot use light to aggregate fish during fishing, the laws frown on these," Nana Solomon said.
He said Ghana had very good laws, "and the laws must have teeth to bite. The laws need to be enforced".
Prof. Nunoo, for his part, called on the government to follow up with strict enforcement and prosecution of persons found to be flouting rules on illegal and unregulated fishing.
He said failure to ensure a strict compliance with the 2014 National Plan of Action against IUU fishing, apart from destroying the fish stock, would make the industry unsustainable.
He told the Daily Graphic that Ghana, as a responsible state, should comply with international rules under the UNCLOS to enable her to trade with other colleague nations.
“All sub-sectors in the industry such as the artisanal, semi-industrial and industrial, have all become culprits to the illegal practices, hence the need for the Fisheries Enforcement Unit to control all the illegalities,” Prof. Nunoo said.
He stressed that although the yellow card was a warning, it was important to work assiduously to enforce the laws to avoid a red card, which would come with dire consequences on the country’s fish export particularly to the EU market, which remained the largest export route of fisheries products.