Government is putting a stop to entries of new artisanal canoes in the marine sector for three years, Mavis Hawa Koomson, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, has announced.
This move is part of measures to manage the growing number of canoes and control fishing in a way that helps the country’s smaller fish stock to recover and be sustainable.
Announcing the three-year moratorium on the entry of new canoes into the marine fisheries sector at a press conference in Accra, the minister explained that the move became necessary because of overfishing and dwindling fish stock.
The marine artisanal fisheries sub-sector contributes to about 70 percent – 80 percent of the total annual pelagic catch. This sub-sector is sustained by small-scale fishers and fish processors. This traditional manner of fishing involves the use of relatively small amounts of capital and energy, and relatively small fishing vessels (canoes), making short fishing trips close to shore – mainly for local consumption.
Despite the importance of this sub-sector, Madam Koomson expressed concern that artisanal fishermen have been involved in activities which put excessive pressure on fish stocks – with overfishing in particular posing a threat to the small pelagic fish stock.
About 3m livelihoods at stake
Under the existing open access system, she said, the number of canoes has risen from 8,000 in 1990 to more than 12,000 in 2023. Unfortunately, the catch of small pelagic fish – which is crucial for the artisanal sub-sector – has dropped significantly from 119,000 metric tonmes in 1990 to just 20,000 metric tonns in 2022.
“For instance, annual landings of Sardinella Aurita declined from 119,515 tonnes in 1992 to 11,834 tonnes in 2019 – representing 9.9 percent of its largest recorded landings. Indeed, our scientists have informed us that a stock is considered collapsed when it reaches 10 percent of its highest yields; and have therefore concluded that the Sardinella Aurita has collapsed. The decline in landings of small pelagic fish is affecting the livelihoods of over 3 million people along the value chain,” Koomson said
“This situation has compelled most fishers to engage in various forms of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities, such as the use of undersized mesh nets – leading to landing of juveniles, light-fishing, use of chemicals and explosives to make their fishing expeditions profitable,” she lamented.
Koomson mentioned that temporarily stopping new canoes from entering the sector will also assist government in making well-informed decisions about the well-being of small-scale fishermen and ensuring their security.
All existing and newly-constructed canoes will therefore be required to be registered and embossed before implementation of the measure, which takes effect from 1st October 2023 and lasts to 30 September 2026.
“This means that no canoe will be constructed and brought into the system for the next three years. With this measure, it is expected that the pressure on our fisheries resources – in addition to the other measures government is implementing – will all contribute to a reduction of the pressure on our fisheries resource, in order to recover the overexploited small pelagic stock,” stressed Koomson.
Product of two-years’ consultation
She explained that the moratorium’s implementation is the result of more than two years of extensive discussions with stakeholders at the community, district, regional and national levels to gain their support for the measure. This will be reviewed on an annual basis.
“The stakeholders along the value chain who were consulted include boat-builders and carvers, traditional authorities, relevant government ministries and agencies, among others,” she said.
She concluded that the move is in line with the National Fisheries Management Plan (2022 – 2026), which was published in the Ghana Gazette of 11th April 2023.