Advisor calls for amendment of Fisheries Act

Kofi Agbogah, Fisheries Advisor, Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP)

Fisheries Advisor for the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP), Kofi Agbogah, has called for the Fisheries Act to be amended to help support the Co-management Policy that has been identified globally as an international best practice in fisheries management.

“Fisheries Co-management is a strategy for managing Common Pool Resources, whereby authority for decision-making is shared between government and resource users. It is one of the internationally accepted best practices in fisheries management all over the world.

“Co-management is a shared responsibility. So, you manage the resource at the local level, where you can take easy decisions within the remit of the law,” he explained.

According to the fisheries expert, the Fisheries Act 2002 (Act 625) in its present form does not adequately empower district assemblies to engage fishing communities in the governance of Ghana’s coastal resources, since the sector is centrally managed.

He said: “The current laws and policies provide little guidance of how Co-management should be implemented. There is therefore need for a new framework that allows for Co-management in fisheries management”.

He added that because the management of fisheries in Ghana is centralised, district assemblies are not empowered to perform vital roles effectively in fishing communities. Also, local community leaders are not recognised under law in fisheries governance.

“So, again, if you look at the ACT 625 it gives little direction, little guidance on how to set up a Co-management regime; and these are some of the reasons why the Fisheries Act 625 must be changed or be reviewed and put in the best language to include direction on how fisheries should be Co-managed,” he said.

Kofi Agbogah was speaking at the opening of a 3-day media outreach in Takoradi, organised by an initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (UASID) – the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP).

The forum was aimed at sensitising the media on the need for fisheries reporting in order to understand and contribute in efforts toward social change in fishing practices.

Journalists were taken through presentations on fisheries Co-management, monitoring and surveillance, post-harvest management, and closed seasons to explain efforts by SFMP, the Fisheries Commission and Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) to achieve sustainability in the fisheries sector.

In his address, Chief of Party for the USAID/SFMP, Maurice Knight, identified the media as the voice which carries out messages and calls government and citizens to task. He said it carried a huge responsibility in this regard.

He added that an objective of the outreach was to bring the media and partners closer together to understand the work being done in the fisheries sector.

“It is to engage you directly, the media, that sits in the middle of the public, government, and experts, in a very important central position. It’s an opportunity for our partners to come together with you the media to learn about some of the important things that are happening in Ghana within the fisheries sector,” he said.

He therefore tasked the media to pay attention to the issues in the sector as they embark on a field trip to project sites. He concluded that these were the issues that needed reporting if Ghana was to be successful in restoring its fishery stock.

As part of the outreach, the journalists were taken on a tour of two fishing communities, including the Ankobra Estuary and Anlo Beach area where SFMP – through its implementing partners – is involved in projects to boost Ghana’s depleting fish stock.

The local NGOs are able to do this by piloting the Co-management policy in these coastal communities while offering training and guidance on best practices for fishing.

At the Anlo Beach, for example, the Pra Estuary Co-Management Committee – made up of residents and representatives of the district assembly – come together to formulate laws to guide fishing practices in the area.

With support from local NGO, Friends of the Nation (FON), the Co-management committee has instituted ‘Closed Areas’ where fishing is prohibited and ‘Closed Seasons’ during which no fishing activity can be undertaken.

These measures have significantly improved fish stocks in the area, which hitherto were in decline and affecting the livelihoods of residents.

According to Kofi Agbogah, management of a common pool resource – such as the sea and water-bodies – requires collaboration for effective implementation of laws to achieve high compliance.

He explained that Co-management is key to addressing some urgent issues that have emerged in the fisheries sector over the years.

Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Francis Kingsley Ato Cudjoe, said his ministry had developed a draft Co-management policy it plans to present to cabinet for review to be brought to parliament and passed into law.

“We hope this will be done by end of the year,” he said.

Depleting Fish Stocks

According to data from the 2018 budget statement, growth in the fisheries sector has declined over the years from 4.3% in 2015 – rising to 5.7% the following year and then declining sharply to 3.5% in 2017.

The country is estimated to import over 530, 000 metric tonnes of fish to augment local supply in a bid to meet an annual demand close to 1million metric tonnes.

The sector also employs about 10% of the country’s population along the entire value chain, and therefore a decline in growth has a direct effect on employment – mainly along the four coastal regions.

This depletion of fish stocks is the result of illegal fishing practices which have led to low harvests and an increase in imports to meet local demand. There is also the issue of galamsey which pollutes Ghana’s major rivers with chemicals, making the habitat harmful to fishes and affecting the eco-system.

Government is therefore implementing a National Fisheries Management Plan that aims at reducing fishing effort to recover stocks. It collaborates with the SFMP, local NGOs and Fisheries Commission in working toward this goal.

The Sustainable Fisheries Management Project is a USAID-funded project aimed at rebuilding targetted marine fish stocks, particularly small pelagic fishes that are important for food security and have seen a major decline over the last ten years.

Kennedy Aryeetey Tetteh | thebftonline.com | Ghana