New canoe authorization card to control open access policy in Ghana

Published on
December 23, 2019

Ghana has moved to control the hitherto unregulated increase in the country’s fishing canoe fleet, which has been blamed for the fast-falling small pelagic catch in the country.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Ministry Minister Elizabeth Afoeley-Quaye launched the first ever Canoe Authorization Card in the sub-region, as Ghana moves to address the influx of new canoes that have flourished under the country’s previous open-access policy, which has been linked to the fast diminishing sardinella species and other small pelagic fishery.

An updated vessel registry system by the Fisheries Ministry, included in the authorization card proposal, indicates phenomenal growth in fishing canoe numbers from 12,700 in 2016 to 14,700 in 2018.

The new card, which will contain personal information – such as their address and other data about the owner/operator of the canoe – is to be implemented by the country’s fisheries commission in collaboration with the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council. Most of the canoes in Ghana and across West Africa measure three meters to 20 meters length overall (LOA) and use various fishing gears, with ring-nets being the most preferred one.

Ghana’s Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta says in the 2020 budget statement and economic policy the new technological tool would enhance and deepen Ghana’s marine stock recovery in addition to “enhancing effective premix fuel distribution in fishing communities.”

Ghana’s small pelagic fisheries, such as the round and flat sardinella, anchovies, and mackerel, account for 70 to 80 percent of the country’s total fish landings but have been severely overfished.

“Over the past decade or so the size of the canoes has dramatically increased, fishing nets have become larger and longer, the horsepower of canoe outboard motors enables fishers to go further per trip, and fuel subsidies prevent the real cost of canoe fishing to be felt by fishers,” a USAID presentation said.

According to Afoeley-Quaye, Ghana’s “current free and open access regime for the artisanal fisheries has contributed to overcapacity, overfishing, low productivity, and low profitability." 

Photo courtesy of the Republic of Ghana’s Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development

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