Beginning this month, authorities in Sierra Leone have instituted a month’s ban on industrial fishing in its territorial waters to shore up fish stocks.
The move has been applauded by both the National Fishermen Consortium and environmental activists in the country, stating that it would result in equitable and sustainable fishing in the industry.
This development has been as a result of illegal fishing methods by hundreds of foreign trawlers fishing off the West African coast where an estimated 75 percent of the boats are from China.
Some environmental sets including the Green Environmental Group have estimated that West African countries notably Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ghana have lost close to US$2.5 billion a year from 2010 to 2017 due to illegal and undeclared fishing.
Global fish trade is estimated to be more than US$1 billion a year. As the fishing industry continues to grow, some foreign interests have muscled their way in. Their fishing methods are destroying what should have been one of the most fertile marine ecosystem on earth, the BBC says.
A recent report by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) – a U.K. based non-governmental organization, states that Chinese involvement in industrial trawling is further depleting Ghana’s fish stocks and harming livelihoods.
In 2002, government banned foreign trawlers from fishing in Ghana’s water to retain more profits from fishing. However, foreign interests, particularly from China, “are known to be extensive” within Ghana’s trawl fleet, says EJF. This has largely been possible because the Chinese buy the vessels and get some Ghanaians to be the front liners.
Additional reports state that Out of about 76 trawlers operating on Ghana’s waters, only one is owned by a Ghanaian whereas the remaining are owned by Chinese operators.
A recently report by the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN), a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service revealed that, Ghana imported an estimated US$ 311.4 million, US$297.5 million, US$349.4 million and US$290.1 million worth of seafood and fish products in 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 respectively.
In August this year, government intends to place a month ban on fishing activities to shore up the country’s fish stocks. This should have been carried out last year, but a number of the fisher folks resisted the move, it claiming there were no proper consultations done.
As shrinking fish stock threatens food security, it is important to do the necessary consultations to effectively carry out the directive. The Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Ms. Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, has already urged sector players to prepare and be ready to comply with the ban.
By Dundas Whigham