The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD), Mavis Hawa Koomson, is getting tough with trawlers operating in Ghanaian waters, denying license renewal to about 77 percent of the total 76 trawlers that fish in our territorial waters.
It is recalled that in July last year, the ministry issued a directive on specifications of gear to be used by industrial trawlers and vessels for fishing. The directive also included ensuring the safety of vessels operating in Ghana.
The gear specification directive was given to avoid catching small pelagic fish and allow juvenile fishes escape through fishing nets in order to replenish depleting stocks.
Madam Koomson made the disclosure at the 2023 Ocean Conference in Panama this month and added that only 25 trawlers out of the registered 76, have received seaworthiness licenses and are currently fishing.
The remaining 51 have been banned from fishing in the country’s waters.
The Minister further stated that plans are being finalised to ensure that all industrial trawlers and tuna vessels licensed in Ghana, use electronic monitoring systems – with the pilot system starting in June this year.
Illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing remains one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems in Ghana due to its ability to undermine national and regional efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks.
The challenge has contributed to depleting fish stocks and threatening marine biodiversity, livelihoods, exacerbating poverty and worsening food insecurity.
Data from the Environment and Natural Resource Research Initiative (ENRRI – EfD Ghana) indicates that the country loses over US$200million annually due to IUU fishing.
In addition to the above and according to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), the country loses some US$50million each year to ‘saiko’ – the practice of trans-shipping fish at sea from industrial trawlers to specially adapted canoes, which has currently been brought under control by MoFAD.
Illegal fishing has a devastating cost on the region as the UN estimates that nearly 40 percent of all fish caught in West Africa are done so illegally, resulting in a loss of US$2.3billion annually.
According Ghana’s laws, illegal fishing activities attract fines of between US$100,000 and US$2million, or a minimum of US$1million for taking on board juvenile fishes, using prohibited fishing gears or fishing in prohibited zones – e.g., the Inshore Exclusive Zone reserved for artisanal fishers. Minimum fines can increase to US$4million in the case of repeated offences.