The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, has announced the month of August is now designated as the closed season for fishing in the country in response to dwindling fish stocks which have reached unsustainable levels.
Madam Afoley Quaye indicated it is as a result of government’s concern about the grievous and precarious situation within and circumstances around fisheries in the country that it intends to implement policies and enforcement mechanisms to restore the sector.
Hence, President Akufo-Addo has directed that fishing activities for all vessels, be it the local canoe or industrial fishing trawlers – with the exception of tuna fleets, should cease operations for the month of August this year (2018).
This follows scientific findings which reveal small pelagic fish commonly referred to as Keta Schoolboys and mackerel are overfished, and this could lead to total depletion of the stock by the year 2020.
Considering the importance of these fish species for the diet requirements of a sizeable part of country’s population, their extinction would spell doom for many households that depend on them for their protein needs.
To buttress the seriousness of the president’s directive, those who breach it are liable to fines of not less than US$500,000 and not more than US$2million in respect of local, industrial or semi-industrial vessels.
Obviously, this directive has not gone down well with fishing communities along the coast – since it’s their livelihood that will be at stake for a month. But the situation has arisen because of illegal fishing practices referred to as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which have gone unpunished for a long time now.
For communities whose generations have lived off fishing for their sustenance over the years, it will be a difficult period to adjust to – so the only way out is to sustain education so that fisherfolk appreciate the severity of the issue at hand.
This is so because, according to the minister, despite the decreasing fish landings in recent times, the number of boats in the system continue to rise – with over 13,000 artisanal canoes in the country’s waters, when at the turn of the century there were just 6,000.
Thus, population increase has brought in its wake pressure on the fish stock, including IUU practices which have not been curbed. It is therefore important to make the fishing community realise that the month of August is when most fish species breed.