Reacting to claims by demonstrating fishermen on Tuesday that offenders were being left off the hook, Dr Acheampong told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview that 31 canoes, 18 inshore vessels, 16 trawlers and two tuna boats had been arrested this year across the coastal line for various offences.
The Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Division of the Commission worked jointly with the Police and Navy to effect the arrest, he said, and that the offenders would be prosecuted.
Dr Acheampong expressed regret that some of the demonstrators got injured when riot police prevented them from entering the Castle saying they would only allow their executive to present the petition to the President.
He urged fishermen to operate within the law adding that with the promulgation of the Fisheries Regulation in August 2010, (LI 1968) which gave effect to the Fisheries Act 2002 (Act 625), all efforts would be made to bring sanity to the fisheries industry and ensure its proper management and development to benefit all stakeholders.
Light fishing, use of explosives, obnoxious chemicals, light attraction, undersized mesh, pair trawling and use of bamboo have all been outlawed under Section 88 of the Act and Part 11 of the Regulations, he said, stressing that offenders would be duly prosecuted.
Meanwhile, Dr Acheampong said, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture had referred the recommendations of the Committee, tasked to set up the Enforcement Unit in line with the provisions of Section 94 of the Fisheries Act, to the Commission for assessment.
He said efforts would be made to expedite the setting up of the inter-sectoral unit with members from the Attorney General’s Department and Ministry of Defence among others towards the rigorous enforcement of the law.
The absence of the unit, he explained, accounted for the low key given to present arrests.
Explaining why the regulations to give effect to the Fisheries Law in 2002 was not promulgated until last year, Dr Acheampong said the first draft sent to Parliament by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Administration in 2007 was rejected because it did not pass through the Fisheries Commission as required by law, as there was no vibrant one at the time.
In 2008, the NPP Administration made a second effort (LI 1952) through the Commission, but it did not make the requisite 21-day period in Parliament before the House was dissolved.
The present Government, however, pursued the matter after the Fisheries Commission was reconstituted in September 2009, culminating in the promulgation of the regulations in August last year, which gives more details about the offences.
Some offenders who were arrested before the promulgation of the regulations, he said, won their cases in court because the Act did not have the full details of the offences.
About 1,000 fishermen from fishing communities including Chorkor, James Town, La and Nungua all in the Greater Accra Metropolis, embarked on a demonstration on Tuesday to present a petition to the President at the Castle to push for the enforcement of the Fisheries Law.
Some held placards with inscriptions like; “Hon Kwesi Ahwoi, please enforce the fisheries regulations to the letter,” “President Atta Mills, aka Nana Kwegyir, your people are dying, fulfil your campaign promise,” “Our children cannot go to school, because no fish, no money, President Atta Mills, what are you doing about this?”
They said some individuals were using illegal fishing methods which should not be encouraged.
They also alleged that the Ministry of Food and Agriculture was aware of most of the challenges they faced in the industry but how to implement the measure to stop them was the problem.
Meanwhile, the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council (GNCFC), has appealed to government to dissolve the National Premix Commission set up to oversee the distribution of premix to fishermen as it had failed to execute its duties appropriately.