With the increased destructive human activities leading to massive pollution and ruin of major lagoons and water sources in the country, experts have predicted a shortage of fish in the next few years ahead if efforts are not stepped up immediately to save the fishing industry.
This has emerged as illegal unreported and unregulated fishing activities have also been identified to be on the rise among both operators of industrial fishing trawlers and local fishermen.
Dr. Isaac Okyere of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Cape Coast observed, for instance, that pelagic stock usually targetted by the artisanal fishermen is fast depleting, just as sardinellas have gone into extinction.
This development among other challenges, he noted, leaves the fishing industry in a precarious state and will adversely impact canoe operators and fishermen, whose source of livelihood is fishing.
He explained for example that the ecosystem, including the Korle Lagoon, Chemu Lagoon, Sakumono Lagoon, Fosu Lagoon, Benya Lagoon, Essei Lagoon which hitherto served as the nursery for most fish consumed locally, are wantonly being degraded.
He said the rate of environmental pollution being witnessed, including the dumping of plastic waste, encroachment on the water-bodies for construction activities among others, are some of the worrying contributing factors.
Also, Dr. Okyere noted, the application of destructive fishing methods like the use of wrong fishing gear; use of dynamite, chemicals and light for fishing; and Saiko fishing further exposes the fishing industry to ‘speedy’ self-destruction that leaves very little chance for recovery.
It is against this backdrop that he said there should be strict enforcement of the Fisheries Act, Act 625. He said all the issues enumerated above are not alien to the law, and therefore it must be enforced to the letter while urging voluntary compliance.
Dr. Okyere was speaking at the sidelines of a dialogue of fisheries players to address challenges and concerns emanating in the fishing industry, and also encouraged the trawlers to desist from targetting pelagic stock and landing them in huge quantities for sale.
The workshop was organised under the theme ‘Restoring Ghana’s depleted fish stocks using the right gears: the role of fisheries associations’ and facilitated by ‘Far Ban Bo’ (FBB). It was a collaborative effort by OXFAM, Care and Friends of the Nation, and supported by the European Union (EU).
The FBB Project Coordinator, Kwame Mensah, explained among others that the workshop was aimed at providing the needed platform for stakeholders to address a number of issues, as well as contributing to the discussion on provisions of the recent 2020 budget statement.
A national executive member of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, Nana Joojo Solomon who participated in the workshop, alleged that the operations of fishing trawlers are causing a lot of damage to the sea bed.
He also mentioned that fishing trawlers are now fishing pelagic stock in large quantities and landing them for sale, contrary to what the regulations permit. This, he indicated, has brought untold hardship to fishermen.
He is hopeful that the president will grant an audience to fishermen in order to get to know the challenges being faced by them.
The Zonal Director of the Fisheries Commission for Mfantseman, Mr. Kwame Damoah, said the Monitoring Control Surveillance Division (MCS) and the Fisheries Enforcement Unit made up of the Police, Navy and Fisheries Commission staff are periodically patrolling the seas to check fishing vessels in order to inspect that the right things are being done.
He said in addition to setting some electronic gadgets to monitor their work, observers are also attached to the vessels to monitor and report on their operations.
However, he said, despite their efforts there could be some oversights due to their small staff strength. As a result, he noted that collaborative efforts are made together with some industry players to educate and sensitise players on the operations.
The Fisheries Commission has halted Saiko fishing in the Central Region where it was very prevalent, and therefore he called on fishermen to also desist from engaging illegal fishing activities like the use of dynamite and other chemicals for fishing.
In another development, the Ghana Aquaculture Stakeholders (GAS) has recently petitioned government to place restrictions and enforce standards on the kind of tilapia imported into the country, as some of them have introduced diseases to local farms – thereby resulting in high mortality rates.
Thus, according to the Founder and Convener of GAS – Patricia Safo, a survey conducted by JCS Investments Limited has revealed that various tilapia farms along the Volta Lake are experiencing severe declines in survival trends. Fish survival rate figures from the survey averaged 38 percent in 2019, comparing unfavourably with the 53 percent and 59 percent recorded in 2018 and 2017 respectively.
It is for this reason that Ms. Safo has called on authorities to see to it that such unwholesome fish are not allowed into the country in order to protect the local industry and reduce the rate of depletion.
“Rogue players who act illegally to pursue short-term profit must be identified and driven out of the industry. We are requesting swift action to resolve this problem so as to establish a level playing field based on clear standards; and everyone involved in the sector must follow the correct procedures,” she said in a petition.