Major stakeholders in the fisheries sector in the Volta Region have observed that the continuous illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices including ‘saiko’ (illegal fish trans-shipments) in Ghana’s sea was occasioned by lack of commitment from regulators to the fight against the practices.
The fishermen said there could not be any other explanation for the Fisheries Commission mandated to enforce laws to protect the sector to look on while practices, which threatened the sustainability of the fisheries resource went on without cracking the whip on perpetrators.
This came up during a regional stakeholders meeting at Keta organised by Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) in collaboration with Hen Mpoano, Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, (GNCFC), Friends of the Nation, Care International, Oxfam Ghana, the Livestock and Fisheries Chamber, and the Careth Development Organisation to dialogue on ending Saiko and other IUU fishing practices in Ghana.
The meeting among other things, screened a June 2019 documentary produced by the EFJ titled, “Stolen at Sea: How illegal saiko fishing is fueling the collapse of Ghana’s fisheries,” which showed industrial trawlers linked to 95 per cent Chinese beneficial owners, stole tonnes of fish from where small-scale fishing was to be done, froze the fish and then called specially adapted (saiko) canoes out at sea and transferred the catches, usually juvenile fish to them for onward sale to local markets.
Torgbui Seth Abotsi, Volta Regional Chairman, GNCFC, who condemned light fishing and other illegal practices and advised colleague fishers against them, said it was unfortunate that regulators could allow foreign trawlers to harvest surface dwelling species, a reserve of artisanal fishers in addition to the bottom dwelling ones, saying the illegal activity was to blame for the little or no catch that fishermen were experiencing.
“For some time now, when we go on fishing expeditions with the hope of getting good catch to feed our families, we land what can best be described as no catch. We use money to buy premix fuel for trips, stand in the sun dragging these nets and at the end, there’s nothing to show for the toil. There’s also the company crew that we must take care of and others,” he said.
Torgbui Abotsi called on the Commission to prioritise enforcement of laws to avoid the collapse of the industry.
He said if that was not done, closed seasons would make no positive impact.
Madam Ruby Adukpo, a fishmonger and Assembly member for Dzelukope Afugo, Keta Municipality, said she was saddened by the revelations especially that of a saiko landing in a single trip being equivalent to about 450 artisanal fishing trips and asked that something urgent be done to forestall total depletion of the fish stock.