The country’s fishing sector, which is one of the major employers in the economy, has been in terrible shape for many years, as no single year passes without the sector’s growth contracting.
Data from the Ghana Statistical Services (GSS) have shown that fishing has been the sector with most recorded contraction in growth for the past few years now; at least, since the GDP was rebased. For example, since 2014 growth has contracted 16 times out of the 22 quarters. The recent contraction was 2.1 percent (year-on-year) in the second quarter of this year, from -1.5 percent the previous one.
In fact, since the first quarter of 2017 the sector has only recorded growth twice, the rest have all been contractions. Furthermore, information published by the Ministry of Fisheries makes the situation even more worrying. It states that the sector directly employs 150,000 canoe-fishers; 30,000 fish processors, and an estimated 2.7 million people are involved in trading, transporting and selling fish across the country – meaning thousands of livelihoods are at risk if the sector’s woes continue.
It is clear, then, that the fishing sector is in distress and needs emergency assistance, or else the country will continue to bleed from a sector that has so much potential to contribute significantly to the economy.
Some of the challenges that have been identified by various organisations as main causes of the sector’s woes include inadequate research findings to guide policy formulation; over fishing; non-observance of closed seasons – and worst of them all, activities of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, otherwise known as ‘Saiko’.
Others include weak enforcement of the fisheries laws due to lack of political will; and absence of structures at the community level to monitor and enforce these laws, among others.
According to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Saiko alone accounted for an estimated 100,000 tonnes of illegal and unreported catches in 2017, with an estimated landed value of US$34-64million lost annually to the economy.
The EFJ further reveals that about 90 percent of the industrial fishing fleet is owned by Chinese companies; a situation that shows there is little or no supervision, as the fisheries law forbids foreign ownership or control of vessels.
Commenting on the effect of Saiko activities, an aquaculture scientist, Dr. Evans Kwasi Arizi, told the media last month that if nothing is done stop the practice, the country will no longer have a fishing industry come the next 15 years.
For him, the one month closed-season for the sector is not enough to achieve a bumper harvest, considering the fact that illegal fishing is still on the rise.
Data source: GSS