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REBUILDING THE FISH STOCK IN GHANAIAN WATERS FOR A SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES INDUSTRY IN GHANA

By G.D. Zaney, Esq.

 

In its State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA)(2016) Report, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations indicates that fisheries and aquaculture remain important sources of food, nutrition, income and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people across the globe.

 

The Report indicates that fish continues to be one of the most-traded food commodities worldwide with more than half of fish exports, by value, originating from developing countries.

 

While the livelihood of over 500 million people in developing countries depends on fisheries and aquaculture, about 90% of the world’s fishery catches come from oceans and seas, as opposed to inland waters.

 

The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the earth habitable for humankind and the statistics indicate that more than three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, and put the market value of marine and coastal resources, and industries at an estimated US $3 trillion per year or about 5 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

 

In other words, oceans and inland waters now, and  in the future, have the potential to contribute significantly to food security and adequate nutrition for a global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

 

It is in this light that United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 becomes relevant as a guide to helping conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Fisheries resources

 

Fisheries resources may be classified as small pelagic species, large pelagic species, demersal species, deep sea species, molluscs and crustaceans.

 

There are also and tuna and tuna-like fish species which form part of a larger tuna community that occur in the entire east Atlantic ocean, with large scale migration over long distances, often staying outside the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of coastal states.

 

Ghanaian fisheries

 

The sources of Ghanaian fisheries are marine and inland waters. Ghanaian marine waters is rich in fishery resources with sardine fishery as the backbone of the fisheries sector of the country.

 

Ghana is home to about 13,000artisanal (canoe) fishermen,400semi-industrial (inshore) fishermen and 75industrial trawlers. There are also 334 artisanal, 7 semi-industrial and 2 industrial landing sites in the country.

 

Recent surveys have, however, shown that as much as 40 per cent of the world’s oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats.

 

The statistics, according to the surveys, reveal that 30 percent of the world’s fish stocks are being overexploited, reaching below the level at which they can produce sustainable yields.

 

Within Ghana’s fisheries waters, the story is not different—a gradual decrease in the stocks of fish due to increased fishing activity.

 

The Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP)Fish Stock Report, 2016, for example,  reveals that  total landings have been in sharp decline since 2000, reaching their lowest level in 2015 at 19,608 tonnes, representing 14% of the highest recorded landings of 1996 (138,955 tonnes).

 

Reports indicate that the average zero catch (vessel spending more than 20 hours searching for fish and returning with no catch) has increased with preliminary estimates showing more than 25% of vessels in Tema returning to harbour without any catch.

 

Fishing communities (Axim, Dixcove, Shama, Anomabo, Apam and Winneba) have also reported that oil exploration activities have contributed to the zero catch scenario and the decline in fish stock landed.

 

Several factors account for the rapid depletion of many fish species, causing ocean fisheries to generate US$ 50 billion less per year than they could.

 

For artisanal fisheries, the challenges range from open and free access to the fisheries; non-compliance with laws and regulations; use of undersized mesh nets; use of explosives and chemicals, use of monofilament nets, operation of beach seines close to estuaries; landing of undersized fish/juvenile fish; and offshore petroleum activities in Ghana.

 

The increasing numbers of trawlers; operating in the Inshore Exclusive Zone (IEZ)—below the 30m zone; pair trawling; and fishing without license have also been identified as offences perpetrated by trawlers and shrimpers in the industrial fisheries sector.

 

Challenges

 

Inadequate research findings to guide policy formulation; over capitalization, over capacity and over fishing, as a result of non-restriction of fishing efforts; poaching of the fish stocks (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing);and the non observance of closed seasons/areas have also been identified as key challenges.

 

The others are low enforcement of the fisheries laws due to the lack of political will to effectively enforce the laws; the absence of structures at the community level to monitor and enforce these fisheries laws as a result of the absence of provisions for community participation in the fisheries regulations; and the delay in the passage of regulations, due to inadequate staffing and logistics.

 

Overcoming these challenges, therefore, requires a commitment to achieving responsible and effective management of the oceans as an essential resource for humanity as a whole, and to counterbalance the effects of climate change.

 

Far Ban Bo Project

 

Fortunately, there is an intervention— The Far Ban Bo Project. Far Ban Bo is a Fante expression, meaning ‘Protecting fisheries livelihoods’. It is a  four-year European Union (EU)-funded fisheries governance project being implemented by a consortium three—CARE (the lead), Friends of the Nation (FoN) and OXFAM— in collaboration with key fishery stakeholders, smallholder fishery associations and the Fisheries Commission.

 

The project is designed to address the challenges of overfishing and unsustainable fishing, including IUU fishing, low compliance and weak capacity for law enforcement within the sector.

 

The Far Ban Bo project, which targets coastal fishing communities in 30 districts in the Western, Central, and Greater Accra Regions, focusses on tenure rights security for fish landing sites and pilot mechanism for grievance and dispute resolution among the fisher groups.

 

The overall objective of the project is to contribute to sustainable fisheries management and to improve food security and nutrition, and the livelihood of smallholder fishers and other users of fisheries resources— with emphasis on improved fisheries governance.

 

A baseline evaluation Report, one year into the project, has, therefore, stressed the need to contribute to finalising the Draft National Policy Framework on Co-management to take into account all bottlenecks to include the strengthening of local capacities of community level groups (fishers, fish processors and traders) and processes of establishing these groups where necessary, including training on group management.

 

The Report also stressed the need for the Project to advocate for the strengthening of enforcement agencies with adequate funding to facilitate increase in marine patrols by the Fisheries Enforcement Unit (FEU) and maintain the Vessel Monitoring System(VMS)operations to sanction IUU related reports.

 

Working with communities to develop trust in available legal protection of the fishery industry was another recommendation. This, the Report says, is expected to build confidence for the communities to report illegal fishing.

 

The Report called for regular sensitisation to enhance the communities’ understanding on the risks and benefits of IUU related activities.

 

The Report underscored the importance of improving community understanding and attitudes to financial institutions and services in order to raise the efficiency of livelihoods, adding that awareness creation programmes should be co-ordinated and supported by government, the institutions and programmes such as the  Far Ban Bo project.

 

The Report also recommended that in order to better target the fisheries communities for assistance, the project should profile areas according to their primary livelihood, with areas that are predominantly dependent on fishing for income requiring different policy and programme interventions than mixed income areas.

 

Implementation of FAO’s Port State Measures Agreement

 

To stop the irrational methods of exploitation of exploitation of fish, including IUU fishing, there is, currently, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Port State Measures Agreement which will allow coastal nations to deny port entry and services to foreign vessels suspected of illegal fishing.

 

The Government of Ghana has ratified the agreement, but there is no doubt that more work is required in the area of implementation.

 

The Ministry for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) and the Fisheries Commission must ensure that no foreign trawlers flying Ghanaian flags flout the law and fish illegally in Ghanaian waters. They must not be allowed to fish without licenses, engage in transhipment, light fishing or use of undersized mesh.

 

The dumping of fish at sea and use of explosives and poison are illegal activities which should be stopped.

 

In November 2013, Ghana’s failure to take sufficient actions against IUU fishing activities by Ghana flagged vessels, attracted European Commission’s  ‘yellow card’ sanction on Ghana which  effectively banned the export of fishery products from Ghana into the 28-nation trade bloc of the European Union and deprived the country of over US$150 million.

 

Since then, Ghana has made a significant progress in improving the governance of the fisheries sector as well as combating IUU.

 

The government of Ghana through the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (WARFP) has put in place appropriate fisheries legislative measures, interagency and international cooperation, collaboration, and coordination, as well as human and logistical resources to manage and regulate the fisheries sector and maritime domain.

 

Presently MOFAD has developed a Fisheries Management Plan for the marine sector for 2015/2019.

 

Under the Plan is collaborating with the Ghana Maritime Authority and the ECOWAS Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa to electronically monitor all vessels in Ghana’s waters leading to the arrest and prosecution of IUU offenders.

 

SFMP has also donated four vehicles valued at about $140,000 to the FEU to help in the enforcement and compliance of the laws so as to improve deterrence of illegal fishing in order to rebuild marine fish stock as a means to enhance food security.

 

Government, in 2015, received an amount of US $53.8 million dollars to improve and ensure the sustainable management of the country’s fish and aquatic resources.

 

Meanwhile, a Fisheries Research vessel Fridtj of Nansen has arrived in Ghana to assess the marine stock levels in the country’s waters.

 

Fortunately, the Far Ban Bo Project is working with the Fisheries Commission and we expect the best of results in rebuilding the fish stock in Ghanaian waters and for a sustainable fisheries industry.

 

The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.