China exploring fisheries-focused memorandum of understanding with Ghana

Published on
November 22, 2018

In a visit to the West African country of Ghana earlier this month, Chinese Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Qu Dongyu announced work is underway on a memorandum of understanding focused on fishery cooperation between the two countries.

Qu visited the fisheries ministry in Accra, Ghana’s capital, where he met Ghanaian Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Elizabeth Afoley Quaye before visiting Chinese vessels docked at a local fishing port being built with Chinese investment. 

China wants to “deepen exchanges” because the two sides have seen “outstanding results” from cooperation in fisheries, Qu said. An MoU would see Chinese expertise transferred to Ghanaian aquaculture alongside fisheries technical know-how, Qu added. Qu signed a similar MoU with Namibia earlier this year, promising aquaculture training and feed production investment.  

China wants to “deepen exchanges” because the two sides have seen “outstanding results” from cooperation in fisheries, Qu said. An MoU would see Chinese expertise transferred to Ghanaian aquaculture alongside fisheries technical know-how, Qu added. Qu signed a similar MoU with Namibia earlier this year, promising aquaculture training and feed production investment.  

The agreement appears not to have been derailed by a recent report by the Environmental Justice Foundation on the role of Chinese fleets in squeezing Ghana’s fishery stocks. The investigation revealed around 90 percent of Ghana’s industrial fishing fleet is linked to Chinese ownership, even though Ghana’s Fisheries Act states that vessels flagged to the country cannot be owned, or part-owned, by any foreign interest, with the sole exception of tuna vessels.

EJF found that foreign companies – overwhelmingly Chinese – operate through Ghanaian “front” companies, using opaque corporate structures to import their vessels and register and obtain a license. In 2015, 90 percent of industrial trawl vessels licensed in Ghana were built in China, and 95 percent were captained by Chinese nationals, according to EJF.

“The result is a complete lack of transparency as to who is responsible for illegal actions, and who controls and benefits from Ghana’s industrial trawl fleet,” EJF noted in a statement last month.

An article on overfishing in Ghana published by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency in July makes no reference to Chinese vessels. However, new vessels have continued to arrive from China, the EJF has said, despite a moratorium on new industrial trawlers entering Ghanaian waters to address vast overcapacity and severe depletion of fish stocks.

The EJF report noted that industrial-sized vessels are grabbing local small fish and selling them back to locals and sucking up species like grouper, snapper, and cephalopods – all popular in China. Cephalopods are also exported to the European Union, which licenses several Ghana-flagged trawlers for imports. 

Photo courtesy of Ghana Daily Graphic

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