Ghana stalls on fishery management reforms

Ghana's USD 200 million (EUR 161 million) fish export connection with the European Union is at risk, due to that country's failure to effectively deal with illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The European Commission , unhappy with Ghana's fisheries management, has sent a delegation to assess the West African country's progress in dealing with the issue, following an earlier warning in 2013, when it issued a yellow card for IUU fishing.

According to GhanaWeb, that yellow card prompted rapid efforts at reform, including the introduction of Ghana’s 2015-2019 Fisheries Management Plan. The reforms led to the yellow card being lifted in 2015.

However, recent Ghanaian media reports have cited ongoing IUU fishing activities in the country, including fishing with light, the use of chemicals, and using undersized nets.

“Two years on, and Ghana’s fisheries are in crisis. Illegal fishing is rampant, and stocks of small pelagic fish – critical for food security and livelihoods – are collapsing,” GhanaWeb reported.

Acknowledging the problem, Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, Ghana's minister for fisheries and aquaculture development, said her ministry “is collaborating with the Ghana Maritime Authority and other concerned agencies to electronically monitor all vessels in Ghana’s waters.” Afoley Quaye is quoted as referencing the 2015-2019 Fisheries Management Plan as evidence of the government's commitment to dealing with the problem.

“The Fisheries Enforcement Unit (FEU) undertakes electronic monitoring of all Ghanaian land industrial vessels as well as land and sea patrols leading to arrest and prosecution of fisheries offenders,” she said. “Currently, the fisheries monitoring center is a collaboration with Ghana Maritime Authority and the ECOWAS monitoring for environment and security in Africa.”

However, according to GhanaWeb, the government’s focus on illegal activities by domestic fishers in pirogues ignored the much larger problem of industrial trawlers “that harvest fish indiscriminately before freezing and illegally trans-shipping them at sea to canoes (or saikos).”

The practice is prohibited under Ghana's 2010 Fisheries Regulations, attracting a fine of up to USD 2 million (EUR 1.6 million), yet it is on the increase, GhanaWeb reported. Furthermore, saiko catches are not recorded in catch statistics, “meaning overall harvest pressure is unknown.”

Since saikos can carry over 40 metric tons (MT) of fish per trip, and trawlers typically report official catches of just 175 MT, it seems likely that the trawlers are making use of saikos to circumvent the law, the article noted.

To assist Ghana in its fight against IUU, Norway has donated a research vessel so that the country can assess the marine stock levels in the country’s waters. 

“The vessel’s program has been unique in training scientists and equipping them with the necessary tools to assess stocks of fishes in our waters,” Ghanaian news site JoyOnline reported.

About two million Ghanaians are involved in the fishing industry nationally, GhanaWeb reported.


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