Fishing sector in danger, experts deplore the collapse of resources

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It is no news that Ghana’s fisheries sector has faced a myriad of challenges. These challenges, experts say, threaten the future of the sector.

Speaking to Eye on Port, Dr. Kamal Deen-Ali, Team Leader at the Center for Maritime Law and Security (CEMLAWS) Africa, said the implications on the economy and livelihoods of Ghanaians are very serious.

“We need to take what is happening in the fisheries sector very seriously from a governance perspective. Our fisheries are going from what was once a food basket to what looks like a collapsed resource,” he lamented.

This claim was backed by Ghana Tuna Association Secretary Richster Nii Armah Amarfio.

He explained that a key element in the sustainability of fisheries is the environment which has been badly managed.

“As you drive and see the lagoons of Korle, Chemu and Sakumo collapsing, it should immediately tell you that our fisheries are in danger. This is because fish would not survive anywhere without water.

“When you lose water, you lose your fishery. Our failure to plan and manage our natural resources poses a lot of danger and our fishing industry is not doing any better,” he said.

Mr. Amarfio also indicated that the increase in human participation in fishing activities has led to an over-reliance on fish stocks, creating unhealthy competition, where some resort to all kinds of means to survive.

He stressed that fisheries management should be treated as a natural resource and not as agriculture.

Therefore, Richster Amarfio urged governing bodies to embrace a paradigm shift that reconciles science with cultural knowledge that would be valued by the wider fishing community in the long term.

He said it was important for policy makers to find practical ways to effectively manage humans who engage in fishing.

The secretary of the Ghana Tuna Association also highlighted how the season closure should be addressed among other strategic fisheries management methods.

He said: “It would probably be more effective to have temporary area closures for certain critical habitats. For example, why do we continue to fish around estuaries that serve as entry points for fish likely to migrate to fresh or brackish water and fish likely to migrate offshore from brackish water?

“We allow people to fish around these places with very small meshes. We are losing our mangroves which serve as a hatchery for crustaceans such as crabs and shrimps which lay there. We need to have an ecosystem approach and the management regime should vary for different species.

Dr. Kamal Deen-Ali, Team Leader at CEMLAWS Africa, spoke about some transparency issues that are hampering the growth of the sector.

He raised the issue of enforcement of licenses for trawl operators, foreign interest in Ghana’s fisheries and their apparent dominance in the industry, remuneration in the sector, effectiveness of sanctions, among others.

Senior Research Fellow at CEMLAWS Africa, Dr. Rebecca Essamuah revealed that it is because of these management issues, among others, that prompted her team’s research project which aims to improve transparency in the sector.

The Enhancing Transparency in Fisheries project, sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies, will last 2 years and is currently in its first phase.

It will examine transparency issues inherent in the sector, assess information sharing mechanisms and assess legal frameworks

It is being implemented in three other countries apart from Ghana, namely Benin, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire.

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