Scores of agitated fishermen in Elmina in the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem (KEEA) municipality have vowed not to quit light fishing until government stops foreign vessels from employing crude methods of fishing in the nation’s territorial waters.
Their views are contrary to the determination of government and the Elmina Traditional Council (ETC) to end the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices depleting marine resources.
In May 2017, the ETC invoked the 77 gods of the area to punish recalcitrant fishermen who continued to use dangerous chemicals to fish in the area.
While pouring libation to invoke curses on the recalcitrant fishermen, Nana Kodwo Conduah VI, the Paramount Chief of Edina Traditional Area, asked the gods of Eyeaba to deal with fishermen who used DDT, light, dynamite, a mixture of Omo and gari, formalin and chemicals on their fishing expeditions.
He warned that, the traditional council would not tolerate illegal fishing practices in the area, since they affected the survival, health and livelihoods in many communities.
But, speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Elmina, it was evidently clear that the fishermen have sidestepped the order with a renewed decision to light fishing, claiming that was the only way to get some fish.
Mr Nicholas Egyir-Aggrey, a 42-year-old fisherman, showed some banned fishing substances including generator sets, bulbs, chemicals, and banned fishing nets saying this is the only way he can get some fish.
He vehemently denied that their activities were depleting the marine resources but blamed the situation on the numerous Chinese and other foreign fishing vessels destroying the sea with their unapproved fishing logistics and endless-‘seasonless’ expeditions.
Mr Emmanuel Ebo Mensah, a 47-year-old fisherman, was emphatic that light fishing started decades ago when the Chinese were given full backing by government to fish – destroying the sea with all kinds of materials, which they had over the years complained of.
“If government had listened to us, things would have been under control by now. Government should strictly enforce regulations in the fisheries sector with prime focus on the foreign vessels,” he said.
“If all illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices such as the indiscriminate use of explosives, chemicals, under-sized mesh nets, light, bamboo and other fish aggregating devices are to be stopped, then the Chinese vessels must be tamed first.
Mr Kofi Brandon, a 52-year-old fisherman, blamed the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture for increasing IUU and other fish aggregating devices and warned of eminent collapse of the fisheries sector.
The Ministry should endeavour to improve information sharing with stock rebuilding strategy to effectively enforce fisheries legislation.
That is the way to protect the marine habitat to conserve biodiversity; reduce post-harvest losses and reduce the current levels of fishing efforts and fishing capacity.
On the closed season, Mr Francis Abban described it as waste of time and called on the government to cancel it with immediate effect as the foreign vessels don’t observe that as well.
“We have not made enough catch as promised of bumper harvest after the closed season,” as he pointed to about 20 fingerlings as their catch after several days of a fishing expedition.
“All stakeholders must sit down and rethink the closed season issue. Since the ban was lifted fishermen go and come back empty or with little catch. We have realised that the closed season cannot help us,” he said.
The fishermen among others also identified the high cost of premix fuel as a major problem affecting the local fishing industry and called for immediate intervention.
They said recent fuel increment has seriously affected their business as the price of premix fuel has shot up and its shortages has led to rationing compelling other fishermen from other communities to compete with the locals for fuel.
Others complained about some unscrupulous businessmen and women who buy the premix fuel in large quantities at the expense of the fishermen and re-sell it later at a higher price and urged the government to effectively tackle the growing concern.