Fight illegal fishing alongside closed-season to maximise gains – Stakeholders

fishermen in coastal districts

Stakeholders in the fishing sector have entreated government to put in some more effort at fighting illegal fishing activities alongside implementation of the closed-season to help better the sector’s fortunes.

According to them, efforts at implementing the closed-season will only lead to positive gains quickly if the fight against illegal fishing activities are intensified.

Speaking at a press conference on the 2021 Fishing Closed-Season – July 1 to August 31 – Executive Director of Friends of the Nation (FoN), Donkris Mevuta, said it is the belief of stakeholders that the closed-season, which is aimed at rebuilding the dwindling fish stocks, must be supported by other management measures such as controlling overcapacity, limiting the number of boats on the sea to sustainable levels, and stopping all forms of Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“The closed-season should be implemented in combination with effective enforcement of existing laws: including but not limited to mesh-size control, and strict enforcement of the law on light, dynamite, and chemicals for this and future closures to be biologically beneficial.

“Of note, replenishing the depleted marine stock will not happen or cannot be achieved if ‘saiko’ fishing continues unchecked. This illegality, together with other forms of IUU fishing undermines the needed enabling environment for juvenile fish to grow,” Mr. Mevuta said.

He was speaking under the auspices of the ‘Improving Fisheries Governance in Ghana and the wider sub-region Project’ (IFG Project) that is being implemented by a consortium of partners: namely Hen Mpoano, Friends of the Nation, Environmental Justice Foundation, Trygg Mat Tracking, and Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea.

Saiko trade

Reports have shown that in 2017 alone saiko trade took from the sea about 100,000 tonnes of fish, worth over US$50million when sold at the landing sites. These fish were predominantly juveniles.

Reports from both CSOs and academia have shown that juvenile fish constitute over 90 percent of saiko landings. We note that while the closed-season will allow the fish to ‘lay eggs’, Saiko fishing will significantly undermine the closed-season.

Mr. Mevuta noted that it is therefore important for the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) and the Fisheries Commission to ensure that industrial trawl vessels land all their catches at the two designated ports in Tema and Takoradi to allow inspection of their catches.

Fisheries Commission

The stakeholders commended the Fisheries Commission for its work in successfully undertaking a gear audit of the trawl vessels. Per the report, industrial vessels have modified their gear to improve their efficiency in landing small pelagic fish.

The stakeholders urged the Commission to immediately implement recommendations in the gear audit report and ensure industrial trawlers play by the rules.

They said it is also important to carry out routine inspections of fishing gear and catches of industrial trawlers to ensure they are only targetting demersal fish, or species of the type and size dictated by their licence. “Effective implementation of the recommendations from this report will help sustain gains of the closed-season,” Mr. Mevuta said.

They have also recommended that MOFAD/FC use the closed-season period to review the observer programme, to ensure observers are trained and equipped with the requisite knowledge and provided needed logistics to safely monitor and accurately document and report activities on fishing vessels at sea.

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