Illegal fishing not a laughing matter

For a country where – according to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture – more than 10 percent of the its 28 million population are said to be engaged in the fisheries sector, it is a serious matter to learn that illegitimate business operations are being carried out on the high seas between large foreign fishing vessels and local fishermen.

In fact, the fishing sector has seen its contribution to GDP drop abysmally for some years now.

The sector, according to Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), contributed 2.5 and 2.3 percent to GDP in 2009 and 2010 respectively. It however tumbled to 1.7% of GDP in 2011 and has since never recorded any figure above that. Currently, its contribution to GDP is at a paltry 1.2 percent from the 1.1 percent recorded in 2016 – clearly reflecting a sector that is in terrible distress.

At the centre of the sector’s poor performance is a practice called ‘Saiko’, which is a form of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing conducted by local fishers who go out in canoes to meet foreign vessels and transport boxes of frozen fish to buyers who mostly wait on shore.

Another illegal practice is Transshipment, which involves large foreign fishing vessels selling fish or cargoes to Ghanaian vessels, boats and canoes at sea. In this way, they avoid berthing at the authorised ports and thus evade payment of taxes to government.

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A report titled Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) Fishing: The Saiko Story, released last year, stated that the global losses due to IUU fishing alone are estimated to be as high as US$23.5billion per year – with West African waters including Ghana deemed to have the highest levels of IUU fishing in the world, representing up to 37 percent of the region’s catch.

According to a recent study by Frontiers in Marine Science, the West Africa region (coastal countries) loses an estimated US$2.3billion annually to illegal fishing.

It is therefore clear that the illegal fishing activities are putting the poor fisherman in a disadvantaged position and costing the economy dearly; hence, steps must be taken by government to stop this practice so the fishing industry can stand on its feet.

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