The “Far Ban Bo” project will support fishermen to gather real evidence on illegal activities at sea through training and provision of relevant technologies such as cameras and mobile phones.
Mr Kyei Yamoah, Project Manager of Friends of the Nation (FoN), a nongovernmental organisation concerned with natural resources management and an implementing partner of the project has disclosed.
The project is funded by the European Union and being implemented by Friends of the Nation (FoN), CARE and Oxfam for the next four years as a step to protect fishing livelihood in five communities across Ghana.
Mr Yamoah explained that the idea was due to the difficulty of getting enough evidence to prosecute illegal activities of fishermen, especially saiko fishers.
He added that some fishermen complained about being persecuted by their own colleagues and sometimes beaten up when they tried to prevent their counterparts from engaging in the illegal act but were not able to provide evidence that could prosecute them.
With the provision of the digital gadgets, local fishermen could take videos and pictures of illegal activities of pair-trawling, known as “saiko” in Ghanaian waters and save for the prosecution of offenders.
Giving a presentation on the four year project at a community durbar at Anomabo on Illegal Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, he said the move would enable local fishermen to play their watchdog role on the sea effectively.
Fishermen across the country have largely accused “Saiko” fishing mostly done by foreign vessels managed by the Chinese and other foreign nationals for the illegal trans-shipment of fish thereby depleting fisheries resources.
Saiko fishing involves foreigners who are licensed to catch particular commercial fishes like tuna within certain radius of the ocean, but end up fishing in unauthorised areas catching other fish species.
Despite Ghana having extensive policy and regulatory framework governing fisheries, including the Fishing Act of 2002, (Act 625), Fisheries Regulation of 2010 (LI1968), National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy (2008) and the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector Development Plan (2015), all abhorring illegal fishing, the practices continued within almost all the coastal regions, with some foreigners highly engaged.
Mr Yamoah said the complex nature of the issues required that the Marine Patrol team, the Fisheries Commission and the Fisheries Enforcement Unit to collaborate well with the local fishermen to appropriately guard the sea against illegal fishing and activities of the “saiko” fishers.
He also indicated that as part of the project, fishermen would be given training on nutrition while they were assisted in the formation of savings and loans club and resuscitate fisher groups within the pilot communities.
The beneficiary communities are James Town in the Greater Accra Region, Anomabo in the Central Region, Discove in Western and Kpando and Kedzekope in the Volta Region.
Nana Mbroba Dabo I, Queen Mother of Anomabo Traditional Area who presided over the durbar, entreated the fishermen to form a union where they could constantly interact as means of strengthening watchdog activities.
She called on opinion leaders, chiefs, religious leaders as well as the leadership of the fishers to remain united and support efforts by the government to prevent IUU practices and to restore depleted fish stock.
The fishermen admitted that the activities by some of their colleagues had also contributed to the dwindling of fish stock in the country's marine waters as seasonal bumper fish catch like herrings had become a thing of the past.