A ban has been placed on the registration of new canoes for artisanal fishing for the next three years.
This follows the implementation of a three-year moratorium on new artisanal canoe entry to take effect from October 1, 2023, to September 30, 2026, for the artisanal sector.
The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD), Mavis Hawa Koomson, who announced this at a news conference in Accra yesterday, said no canoes were expected to be constructed and brought into the system for the next three years.
With the slogan “Pause, No New Canoes Now”, the moratorium is to enable the government to regulate the increasing canoe fleet to control fishing effort.
It is ultimately to aid in the sustainable management and rebuilding of the country’s small pelagic stocks.
It is also to help the government to make informed management decisions concerning the welfare of small-scale fishermen while safeguarding their future.
To ensure smooth implementation of the moratorium, Ms Koomson said all existing and newly constructed canoes were to be registered and embossed with numbers in compliance before the implementation period.
In Ghana, the fisheries sector is made up of the artisanal, semi-industrial and industrial, with the marine artisanal fisheries sub-sector contributing up to about 80 per cent of total annual pelagic catch.
However, due to activities of artisanal fishermen which had contributed to overcapacity, overfishing, low productivity and low profitability in the marine fisheries sector, the small pelagic stocks are on the verge of collapse.
To save the situation, the government has introduced certain measures, including a closed season for all fleet, ban on Saiko, introduction of new trawl gear directive, reduction in fishing days for trawlers, improved licensing regime for semi-industrial vessels, piloting of electronic monitoring system on trawlers, and establishment of co-management structures such as small pelagic co-management committees.
But the minister said those measures were not enough.
With the current open access regime, the canoe fleet, Ms Koomson disclosed, had increased from 8,000 in 1990 to over 12,000 in 2023, although the small pelagic fish landings, considered the backbone of the artisanal sub-sector, had decreased from 119,000 metric tonnes in 1990 to 20,000 metric tonnes 2022.
“For instance, annual landings of the Sardinella Aurita declined from 119,515 tonnes in 1992 to 11,834 tonnes in 2019, representing 9.9 per cent of its largest recorded landings.
Indeed, our scientists have informed us that a stock is considered collapsed when it reaches 10 per cent of its highest yields, and have, therefore, concluded that the Sardinella Aurita has collapsed,” she said.
The decline in landings of the small pelagic fishes, the minister said, was affecting the livelihoods of over three million people along the value chain.
“Can you imagine our staple meals without, ‘abobi’, ‘eban’ and ‘saman’?
Not only are these fishes relatively cheaper and affordable, but they are also highly nutritious, and the collapse of these valuable fishes will have socio-economic impact on the country,” Ms Koomson stated.
She said the introduction of a moratorium on new entrants for canoes was, therefore, a new measure that the government was pursuing, and that “this is simply a pause on new entrants of canoes in the sector”.
The moratorium, the minister said, would be reviewed annually.
The ministry and the Fisheries Commission, over the past two years, she said, had extensively engaged all stakeholders, including boat builders and carvers, traditional authorities, relevant government ministries and agencies, at community, district, regional and national levels on the policy.
Ms Koomson called for maximum support from fishermen and stakeholders, saying the effort would contribute to rebuilding of stock to the benefit of the fishermen through good catches, and to save the sector from collapse.
The Fisheries Minister said although no new canoes would be allowed into the system, fishermen could replace their broken canoes following certain guidelines.
“You need to send a formal notice through your chief fisherman to the Fisheries Commission before you can replace it,” she said, assuring that such replacement would be done in an expeditious manner to prevent fishermen from losing their livelihoods.
Welcoming the directive of the ministry, the acting President of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, Nana Joojo Solomon, indicated that the fishermen were faced with the issue of overfishing because there was overcapacity in the industry.
“We haven’t said no canoes will come again, but for now, it is a break; no more canoes.
The canoes are becoming plenty,” Mr Solomon said.
He urged all to adhere to measures put in place by the government to improve their livelihoods, and further commended the ministry for the construction of more landing sites.
The President of the Ghana Inshore Fishermen Association, Joseph Nii Armah Quaye, appealed to the ministry to continue educating fishermen on the effects of the moratorium, saying that would make the implementation easier.
Mr Armah commended the minister for the closed season, saying they were impressed with the bumper fish harvests, and urged all to desist from illegal fishing practices.