…fishermen compelled to fish in Togo waters due to depleting stock
Fisher folks at the Tema Newtown fishing habour have attributed their frequent low catch to activities of illegal fishing vessels being operated by foreigners.
The fishermen have also accused their own colleagues and Ghanaian businessmen for fronting for these foreigners who fish in the deep waters, but also come with their vessels at night to fish in the habour area.
The situation has been contributing towards further depletion of the already-burdened stock as some of the vessels regularly harvest fingerlings in large quantities.
Illegal fishing methods
Interacting with the Goldstreet Business at the Tema fishing habour, Chief fisherman of Tema Awudung, Nii Odametey II, recounted, how the use of dynamite, light and other harmful chemicals have depleted stocks for more than a decade in the area; these activities are perpetuated by foreigners on very regular basis.
“On the canoe registration and licensing list at the Ministry of Fisheries, there’s not a single Chinese or foreign name registered, but they are operating here with their large vessels and boats. We suspect that some Ghanaian businessmen go to register, and hand their licenses over to the Chinese to operate. It is affecting us negatively, and we see them every night at sea in canoe territories, competing aggressively with us,” Nii Odametey said.
“What they are doing is more comparable to the gold galamsey scourge and I can bet you that in a few years’ time, it’ll be tough for us to find fish to eat in this country,” he added.
Modus operandi of illegal vessels
Nii Odametey said the foreign boats and vessels maneuver from their designated territory at deep sea, to fish in the jurisdiction of the canoes at night. “When it is dark, the Ghana Navy radar can’t detect them so they come to fish and run away when daybreak approaches. I can confidently say that we have more than 700 Chinese nationals fishing in our waters.”
He however appealed to the Fisheries Ministry to either consider regulating the number of foreign fishers, or stop their activities entirely. “We want to see a law that says only 20-50 foreigners can legally operate in our waters. Their numbers are currently unbearable,” he pleaded.
Fishing in Togo is an option
“…on daily basis, about 500 to 800 canoes, venture into Togo waters to fish and return. That country doesn’t allow such activities from foreign boats and vessels so they have large fish stock. That is the only option we have despite the distance to Togo. We don’t want to compromise our livelihood so we’ll continue to go there,” the chief fisherman indicated.
Concern fishermen of the area, have launched several complaints to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and other authorities including the Municipal Assembly but their plights remain unattended to. The situation, he said, is worrying.
Nii Odametey appealed to the government to design a special pension scheme for all fisher folks in the country through a special registration exercise.
“Government must give a directive for all canoe owners to register their crew members and pay some amount of money for each of them towards their retirement. The amount will then be supplemented by government in order to offer some hope to fishers at old age,” he suggested.
Tema currently has about 800 canoes with each canoe employing the services of about 15 crew members.
In Ghana, the four fishing regions – Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions have an estimated 15,000 canoes in the fishing industry.
The Ghana Statistical Service 2017 Integrated Business Survey II report in 2015, indicated that the fishing industry raked in GHS307 million representing just 5.6 percent of a total GHS5.48 billion recorded by the entire agriculture sector.
A study by the University of Cape Coast Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture estimated the cost of illegal fishing to the economy at about US$100 million annually.
By Wisdom Jonny-Nuekpe