The Fishing Sector: an industry left behind …contributed only 1.2% to GDP

For years Ghana’s fishing subsector has experienced stunted growth, making its contribution to the economy quite insignificant compared with other subsectors.

The fishing subsector since 2006 has contributed less than 3 percent to the country’s economy, according to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) data.

In 2006 the industry contributed 2.5 percent to the economy, then dropped to 2.3 percent in 2007. It however increased to 2.7 percent in 2008.

Sadly, after 2008 its contribution has never passed 2.7 percent.

It contributed 2.5 and 2.3 percent to GDP in 2009 and 2010 respectively. It however tumbled to 1.7 percent to GDP in 2011 and has since never recorded any figure above that.

Currently its contribution to GDP is at a paltry 1.2 percent, from the 1.1 percent recorded in 2016, clearly reflecting a sector that is in terrible distress.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that production from marine fisheries has been declining since 1999, from almost 420,000 tonnes to 202,000 tonnes in 2014.

Total fish exports, the study adds, reached a peak in 2003 with a value of US$120million but declined sharply to US$44million in 2014.

The FAO study also states that imports have increased substantially in most recent years, reaching US$373million in 2013. As a result, the seafood trade balance moved from a US$33million surplus in 1997 to a US$319million deficit in 2013.

Again, according to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, the country currently produces just 40 percent of its 1 million tonnes fish need; importing over 600,000 metric tonnes of fish to augment local production.

Data from the Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) also estimates that the fishing industry contributes 3 percent to the country’s GDP, and about 10 percent of the population is engaged in various aspects of the fishing industry.

This makes the situation more worrying, as the sector has every potential to grow and create employment for the economy.

It is estimated that annually close to 70,000 students graduate from tertiary institutions across the country. However, data from the Institute of Statistics, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana reveal that only 10 percent of graduates find jobs after their first year of completing school.

This means that if the right measures and policies are taken by government to specifically tackle some of the challenges in the fishing sector, the high rate of unemployment can be significantly reduced.

Major challenges confronting fishing

One age-old challenge that has been around for a long time is the regular shortage of premix fuel used by fishermen to power their outboard motor for fishing expeditions. This is largely due to diversion of the fuel by some industry actors.

About 200 cases of premix fuel diversions have been reported by the National Petroleum Authority since January 2017.

What has worsened the case is politicisation of fuel distribution by successive governments.

Another major challenge confronting the sector is illegal fishing, which is estimated to cost the economy about US$100million annually – with pair-trawling, bomb-fishing, and fish-poisoning leading the assault.

A study by the University of Cape Coast’s Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences has indicated that climate change is also partly responsible for the country’s depleting fishing stock.