An estimated 100,000 metric tonnes of fish with a landed value of US$34 to 65 million were traded illegally through “saiko” in 2017, a recent study by EJF and Hen Mpoano has revealed.
It said industrial trawlers reported just 67,000 metric tonnes of “official” catches to the Fisheries Commission in 2017, an indication that illegal activities by foreign vessels was still rife on Ghana’s marine waters.
According to another report published by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and Hen Mpoano under the European Union (EU) funded “Far Dwuma Nk?do” project on Thursday, vessels continue to engage in the damaging practice of ‘saiko’ which has a particularly destructive impact on the nation’s small pelagic fisheries.
The sector in Ghana is facing unprecedented challenges, as fish stocks plunge to its lowest recorded levels due to lack of transparency and accountability to clamp down on illegal fishing vessels.
The report, titled, ‘Securing Equitable and Sustainable Fisheries’ discussed the main gaps in transparency in the fisheries sector and proposed recommendations to address the shortfalls in the context of the ongoing revision of Ghana’s fisheries law framework.
It said the lack of transparency allowed illegal operators to disguise the identity, ownership and history of fishing vessels, avoid detection and sanctions which ultimately made illegal fishing and vast over-capacity in the fishing fleet rife and continued to decimate fish stocks.
It said fines for illegal fishing were often negotiated through opaque out-of-court settlements to a fraction of the US$1 million minimum set out in the law whereas fishing licence fees in Ghana were substantially lower than in other West African countries.
As a result, lack of transparency allowed illegal operators to disguise the identity, ownership and history of fishing vessels, avoid detection and sanctions which ultimately made illegal fishing and vast over-capacity in the fishing fleet rife and continues to decimate fish stocks.
“Transparency in Ghana’s fishing industry is vital to thousands of people’s livelihoods, and the food security of the entire nation. It is a low-cost, highly effective means to tackle illegal fishing, improve accountability and support meaningful participation in decision-making,” the report said.
“Access to credible information is essential for informed participation in fisheries management. Together, transparency and participation increase accountability of government institutions and support the fight against corruption,” it said.
The report said incomes of small-scale fishers have dropped by as much as 40 per cent in the last 10 to15 years, and Ghana was forced to import more than half of fish consumed.
It said transparency is the most effective means to tackle these issues and that the ongoing revision of the 2002 Fisheries Act provided a unique opportunity to provide much-needed accountability in the fisheries sector.
To bring about meaningful change, it recommended that the government allowed for external scrutiny of progress towards achieving targets for sustainable fisheries management and invest the revenue from licence fees and fines in the sustainable development of the sector and publish the details.
It said there is the need for government to identify the true beneficiaries and perpetrators of large-scale and organised illegal fishing, hold them publicly accountable for their actions and make vessel monitoring data publicly available.
The report concluded that revenue reporting and audits has greatly increased revenue from the oil, gas and mining sectors and recommended that the fisheries sector follow suit.