Declining fish stock worrying; 4million livelihoods affected

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The country’s fisheries sector is faced with the challenge of declining marine fisheries resources, leading to loss and diminishing livelihood for over 4 million Ghanaians — fishers and their dependents.

This challenges — over-fishing and widespread Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing among others — have contributed considerably to the country’s declining fish stock.

Mr. Kofi Agbogah, the Director of Hen Mpoano, a non-governmental organisation committed to promoting sustainable fishing in coastal communities, confirmed to panelists during a Business Advocate programme in Accra that: “It is serious, because the data we have suggest that if your yield at a particular time is less than 10% of the historical maximum, it means the resources are collapsing.

“Now fisheries are catching less than 20,000 tonnes a year while our historical maximum has been 120,000 and 130,000 tonnes a year; this means that we are in crisis so we need to take some steps.

“This is the result of weak governance culminating in ineffective enforcement of the fisheries laws (Act 625 & L.I. 1968), non- transparency in utilising the Fisheries Development Fund, and an upsurge in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”

The programme was organised with support from the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund in collaboration with Friends of the Nation, and was aimed at advocating enhancement of governance in the fisheries sector to ensure that the relevant laws work.

Mr. Agbogah urged government to strengthen and enforce regulations in the sector, considering the effects that weak regulation has on its fortunes.

“Fishing is an open-access activity, and because everyone is racing to catch the fish, they employ all sorts of methods because it is a free-for-all thing.

“If you left them for some time to reproduce you can rebound the fisheries; however, this these are the fish that all the canoes, the inshore and lately even the trawlers are all targeting, so there has to be a moratorium or ban on catching these fishes,” he said.

He added: “As at today we are harvesting as much fish as we were harvesting 50 or 60 years ago, at which time the population was about 4 million, so there is a problem here. The legal regime allows for anybody to go to sea; unlike having a licence to drive, it is not the same for fisheries. Everyone is racing to catch the last fish. People are employing all kinds of means to catch fish.

“We have gone past the maximum yield that the marine environment can provide us. We are on a steep decline, so there is need to put in structures that will ensure we get fish back in the sea.”

The Director in charge of the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Division at the Fisheries Commission, Mr. Godfrey Baidoo Tsibu, explained that the Commission’s mandate is to formulate policies and ensure their enforcement.

He explained that the country’s laws describe the prohibitions in fishing-related activities including the use of chemicals — which has health implication for consumers — and the use of small nets which results in harvesting juvenile fish.

“Ours is about formulating policies, ensuring that there are laws governing water-bodies, and seeing to it stakeholders are informed of the policies to help guide their investments to become profitable in the long-term,” he said.

Programme Coordinator-Friends of the Nation (FON), Kwadwo Kyei Yamoah, indicated fisheries are very important natural resources the nation needs to manage effectively, especially in order to address the massive and deepening poverty in most coastal areas and communities that depend on fisheries.

He said: “We consume a lot of fish, so fish has links with food security. When fish is in abundance, people access it and it is very cheap. So people are able to improve their nutritional values or gains when they take fish. Fisheries are also a cultural heritage for most of these people, so collapsing fisheries means taking away their daily existence and culture. So these are key issues”.

 

Source: B& FT

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