Chief Director at the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD), Professor Francis Nunoo, has urged fisherfolk protesting against the August Closed Season to take a cue from their counterparts at the Densu estuary who reaped benefits after accepting a five-month Closed Season.
Professor Nunoo said, results from the Closed Season at the estuary was evident for all to see as oyster pickers from the Tetegu, Bortianor and Tsokomey areas now harvest larger volumes and double daily revenues from GHS 40 to GHS 80, a 100% increase.
“We are impressed with the success that they have chalked. They closed the estuary for 5 months and they’ve seen the returns. The oysters have picked up and proliferated, becoming so big. They’ve increased in numbers as well,” he said.
“This is something very wonderful akin to the closed season that we want to do in the marine waters for one month.”
The Chief Director spoke to the media during a working visit to the Densu delta to engage with members of the Densu Oyster Pickers Association (DOPA) and listen to their success stories following the five-month Closed Season.
Prior to the implementation of the Closed Season, oyster stocks in the Densu estuary had declined heavily which affected the livelihoods of women in the surrounding communities whose mainstay was revenue made from sale of oysters.
The affected women, under the training and support from the USAID Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP) through its partner, the Development Action Association (DAA), organised themselves into the Densu Oyster Pickers Association (DOPA) and formed a co-management committee to implement and police the five-month Closed Season which was meant to regain depleted stocks and revive their businesses.
After being trained in the basic science of oyster habitats and reproduction, as well as proper harvesting, handling and processing methods, the women of DOPA now reap enormous benefits following the end of the prohibited period of activity.
Patience Amudzi, a beneficiary of the skills training programme said, before the training from DAA, she sold her oysters for as little as GHC 1 but after learning value added skills in processing, she now sells her oyster for as much as GHC 5 per pack.
According to Prof. Nunoo, “This is a success story and we are happy with what we have seen.”
Government, through MoFAD and Fisheries Commission (FC) announced a closed season for the month of August following a technical report of Ghana’s marine small pelagics reaching critical and unsustainable levels. According to the report, the species are overfished and may be totally depleted in as little as two years if fishing effort is maintained at present levels.
The closed season is therefore in response to saving pregnant fish that travel to spawn in August, thereby ensuring reproduction of the species and subsequently saving the fishing industry.
However, this decision hasn’t gone down well with some fishermen who contend that the timing of the decision is detrimental to their survival as August is a period of bumper harvest.
However, Prof. Nunoo explained, “We really sympathise with them and we wish it could have been any better but all is not lost as we are not saying they should stop fishing forever. We are just saying they should hold on for 4weeks and start fishing after. They will reap the benefits.”
“They will still have the catch that they want in September. It’s just a little delay in their profit. Not a foregone profit,” he added.
On the issue of fish shortage and increase in prices during the period of Closed season, Prof. Nunoo gave assurance of the ministry’s effort to monitor the situation to ensure things don’t get out of hand.
“Let me also allay people’s fears and say we didn’t close all the waters, only the sea. There’s a lot of fish from the Volta lake such as tilapia and other fishes. There’s already some imported fish and those stocked up in cold stores. So let’s go for them during the period,” he said.
“We are monitoring to make sure that fish prices do not go high, and fish will not be in short supply,” he concluded.
Kennedy Aryeetey Tetteh | thebftonline.com | Ghana