- Minister announces Closed Season to revive dying sector
- Closed Season begins August 7 to September 4, 2018
- Offenders to pay between US$500,000 and US$2million
Government has announced a closed season for the month of August, during which no fishing activity will be permitted in Ghana’s marine waters – with the tuna fleet excepted.
The directive, which affects all other fleets including artisanal fisheries, is in response to a dwindling fish stock that has reached unsustainable levels for small pelagics, popularly called ‘poor man’s fish’.
Making the announcement in Accra, the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye said: “The government of his excellency, President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo of the Republic of Ghana, has noted with concern the grievous and precarious situation and circumstances around the fisheries of Ghana and intends to implement policies and enforcement mechanisms that will restore fisheries to its former glory.
“To this end, the president has directed that fishing for all fleets – with the exception of the tuna fleet – should be closed for one month beginning August 2018,” she announced.
Madam Afoley Quaye explained that the decision followed findings from the Scientific and Technical Working Group (STWG) which showed that small pelagic fish in the country, popularly known as Keta Schoolboys as well as Sardinella and Mackerel, are heavily overfished – which could lead to total depletion of the species by 2020 if fishing efforts are maintained at the present rate.
“Over the last two decades, the fisheries sector has seen a massive decline and appears to be heading toward a total collapse. The sector is faced with a crisis of overcapacity and overfishing of all stocks. This is compounded by various illegal fishing practices called Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing,” she said.
“A person who engages in fishing during a declared closed season commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than US$500,000 and not more than US$2million in respect of a local, industrial or semi-industrial vessel; or 100 penalty units and not more than 500 penalty units in any other case,” she warned.
In addition, she said the law states that any catch, fishing gear, vessel or any combination of these used in breaching the regulation may be forfeited to the state.
The minster assured that during the period security forces and enforcement agencies, including marine police, navy and the fisheries enforcement unit, will be deployed to enforce the law and apprehend any offenders.
Some fishermen in the Jamestown fishing community have however expressed their displeasure over the move, saying it will have devastating effects on their livelihoods.
Also, at Sekondi in the Western Region over 200 fishermen and fishmongers, last Friday, held a demonstration at the Albert Bosomtwi-Sam Fishing Harbor – arguing that the ban has been badly-timed.
They asked government to consider postponing the 2018 closed season to August 2019, so as to enable them prepare adequately.
According to these fishermen the month of August has always been a time of bumper-harvests, and as such announcing a closed season during this period will affect them greatly.
However, Fisheries Advisor at the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project, Kofi Agbogah, explained that the reason there is a bumper harvest in August is because it is during this period that marine fish move from the deep seas into shallow waters to spawn. As a result of the movement of fish during this period ,the fishermen are able to harvest large volumes with little effort.
Kofi Agbogah added that this practice, owing to a knowledge-gap over the years, has severely harmed the reproduction rate of the fish – which has led to the current crisis.
Commenting on the issue of alternative livelihoods for affected fisher-folk, Naa Afoley Quaye said: “Closed season will not be a one-off process. We will continue year on year until the stock level improves. Fishers will be encouraged to develop the culture of saving, pensions and insurance. We will pursue registrations and licencing of canoes and provide identification to all fishers.”
She added that government has heard the arguments against the closed season, particularly fishers needing to maximise income and make some profit on their investment; and concerns over traditional celebrations of Homowo in Accra.
However, she said: “For a win-win situation to protect livelihoods for fishers and the fishery, the August closed season is declared as Tuesday the 7th of August to Tuesday the 4th of September, 2018. Therefore, legal fishing can start on 5th September 2018”.
Kennedy Aryeetey Tetteh | thebftonline.com | Ghana