Despite protests from fishermen in the Greater Accra Region, government is keen on seeing through plans to completely ban fishing activities in the Gulf of Guinea for the month of August as part of measures to salvage the country’s fast-deteriorating fish stock.
Government, with support from partners such as the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project under the USAID, selected the month of August to place a ban on all forms of fishing in its territorial waters.
The plan initially faced resistance from fishermen and fisherfolk alike, but subsequently consensus was reached with various fishing communities in the Volta, Central and Western Regions.
According to Deputy Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister, Francis Ato Codjoe, depletion of the country’s fish stock has gone beyond crisis level and government can no longer afford any delay in efforts to save the situation.
Speaking at a one-day seminar organised by the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project last week, the Deputy Minister confirmed reports that the countries fisheries stock faces imminent collapse due to overfishing, illegal fishing, and use of inappropriate fishing equipment.
The Deputy Minister maintained that government understands perfectly the concerns of fisherfolk within the Greater Accra Region; however, it is guided by the desire to save and protect the little that’s left of the fish stock in order to give room for their reproduction.
Mr. Ato Codjoe stated that August was chosen as the ideal period for the closed season because it is the time when most fish happen to reproduce, and the closed season will allow for the stock to increase.
Apart from initiating the closed season, the Deputy Minister revealed there are other measures being sought by government to ensure fisheries resources are not overexploited. Currently, he said, there is an effort being made to reduce the number of licenced fishing vessels in the country’s waters.
He also stated that apart from trackers being installed on licenced fishing vessels, observers from the Fisheries Commission have been put on all vessels to ensure illegalities in the country’s waters are minimised.
A report authored by SFMP found that small pelagic fish species in Ghana – sardinella, anchovies and mackerel – have reached unsustainable levels and may face total depletion by the year 2020 if urgent measures are not instituted to reduce fishing and recover dwindling stock.
The study on the status of Ghana’s small pelagic fish stock revealed: “Small pelagic resources, particularly sardinella, are on the verge of collapse. Annual landings have been in decline for more than a decade as fishing efforts have increased.
“This drastic decline in landings is due primarily to overfishing and overcapacity of the fishing fleet. Fishing pressure is driven largely by the artisanal fleet operating under open access rules, using bigger and more efficient fishing gear and technologies,” the report said.
Following continuous reports of low catch at sea and dwindling fish stock in the country, the Scientific and Technical Working Group (STWG) of the SFMP conducted a study to assess the state of artisanal fisheries in Ghana for 2017 and suggest how dwindling stocks can be regained to sustainable levels.
The STWG assessed information from the Fisheries Scientific and Survey Division (FSSD) of the Fisheries Commission, analysing available data against previously established biological reference points or management indicators.
They found that small pelagic species in Ghana are overfished while fishing mortality has gradually increased in the past 25-years, reaching high and unsustainable levels in 2016.