The Improving Fisheries Governance in Ghana project team (IFG), has advised the government to take steps to stop all forms of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the country.
The team believes that failure to do so would mean that the closed season in the fishing sector would not reap the necessary benefits.
Addressing the media in Accra, the Executive Director of Friends of the Nation, Mr Donkris Mevuta, who is a member of the team, said as partners on the IFG project, they believed the closed season which was aimed at rebuilding the dwindling fish stocks must be supported by other management measures such as controlling overcapacity, limiting the number of boats on the sea to sustainable levels, and stopping all forms of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing).
He said, as recommended in the 2020 fisheries Scientific and Technical Working Group (STWG) report, the closed season should be implemented, together with effective enforcement of existing laws
“Of note, replenishing the depleted marine will not happen or cannot be achieved if ‘saiko’ fishing continues unchecked. This illegality, together with other forms of IUU fishing undermines the needed enabling environment for juvenile fish to grow.
“Reports have shown that in 2017 alone, saiko trade took from the sea about 100,000 tonnes of fish, worth over US$50 million when sold at the landing site. These fishes were predominantly juveniles,” he stated.
He said reports from both CSOs and Academia had also shown that juvenile fish constitute over 90 per cent of saiko landings.
“We note that while the closed season will allow the fishes to ‘lay eggs’, saiko fishing will significantly undermine the closed season. It is therefore important for the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) and the Fisheries Commission to ensure that industrial trawl vessels land all their catches at the two designated ports in Tema and Takoradi to allow inspection of their catches,” he said.
Mr Mevuta commended the Fisheries Commission for its work in successfully undertaking a gear audit of the trawl vessels.
“As revealed in the report, industrial vessels have modified their gear to improve their efficiency in landing small pelagic fish. We, therefore, urge the Commission to immediately implement the recommendations in the gear audit report and ensure industrial trawlers play by the rules.
“It is also important to carry out routine inspections of fishing gears and catches of industrial trawlers to ensure they are only targeting demersal fish, or species of the type and size dictated by their license. Effective implementation of the recommendation of this report will help sustain the gains of the closed season,” he stated.
Review of observer programme
Mr Mevuta, also recommended that MOFAD/FC use the period of the closed season to review the observer programme, to ensure that observers are trained and equipped with the requisite knowledge and provided the logistics to safely monitor and accurately document and report activities on fishing vessels at sea.
He said improving regulations and monitoring, and enhancing transparency in fisheries management, were the best weapons the country could use to stem illegal fishing that was driving its fish stocks to extinction.
“Many of the transparency measures, including publishing details of fishing licence conditions, vessel ownership and sanctions for IUU fishing, are cheap and simple, and can be implemented immediately.
“We would like to remind artisanal fishers who have embraced this year’s closed season, to equally play their roles and support the rebuilding effort. They must do away with light, dynamite, chemical and other forms of illegal methods of fishing. In order not to have wasted a whole month without fishing, we appeal and encourage artisanal fishers to engage in responsible fishing along the beaches,” he said.