By Bernice Bessey
The Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council has come out vehemently opposed to last month’s closed season declared by the Minister for Fisheries and Aqua Culture Development, Elizabeth Afoley Quaye.
According to them, the timeline declared by the Minister, from 15th May to 15th June, 2019, was not done in consultation with its members, hence, they want the date moved to the whole month of July [thus July 1st to 31st] for the closed season.
Per their claim, which they said is backed by scientific evidence, the closed season in the whole of July could result in 20 percent catch, as compared with five percent projected in the earlier date communicated by the Minister.
Nii Abeo Kyerekuandah IV, Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council Executive Secretary, addressing a news conference in Accra, said the members were not against the closed season, however, “We know for a fact that [the] closed season is an important management tool used to manage fisheries to restore dwindling stocks, and that is why have agreed that it is declared this year, but it is the timeline, i.e. May 15, 2019 to June 15, 2019, that we have problem with.”
He said their proposed dated is based on scientific evidence produced by the committee’s research that was meticulously discussed at a forum before the timeline proposed by the Scientific and Technical Working Group was unanimously accepted for adoption.
To him, the period where policy makers take decisions and force it on them is long gone, therefore, they also have a role to play in what affects them and their livelihoods.
“The recommendations of the Scientific and Technical Working Group indicated that from the scientific research analysis, the next best period, apart from the month of August, is July, and, therefore, the closed season should cover the period July 1st to July, 2019, and that the closed season period should be to all fleets in order to achieve the desired objective,” he added.
Nii Abeo Kyerekuandah IV further stated that scientific indicators showed that any closed season declared and implemented before July would not yield or produce any impact of value, and will, therefore, be absolutely useless.
He explained that in July, the impact would be 20% or more, which is obviously significant and valuable than the 5% or less to be achieved in May and June, adding, “also, having been made aware of the critical situation, with regard to the level of depletion of the fish stocks, especially the small Pelagics, the fishermen’s obvious choice, therefore, is 1st to 31st July, 2019, which is based on scientific evidence available…”
He added that the Minister’s timeline had no scientific basis, and, therefore, it might not produce the needed impact expected.
He said what they want the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development to address is the registration of more fishing trawlers, by cutting down their numbers to ease pressure on the fish stocks and the trans-shipment of fish on the high seas, known in our local parlance as ‘SAIKO’.
“SAIKO is one of the deadliest fishing practices which have been outlawed worldwide and the Fisheries Law of Ghana, Act 625 also prohibits it.
“Unfortunately, however, in Ghana, it is still actively done in the Central and Western regions, and it is causing inestimable havoc to Ghana fisheries, because it emboldens the industrial trawlers to ‘steal’ the fish from the artisanal or small-scale fishermen,” he lamented.
It was estimated that almost 100,000 metric tonnes of fish was landed illegally through “SAIKO” in 2017, causing a loss of about US$50 million revenue to the state.
“The Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council is, therefore, appealing to the government to set up, as a matter of extreme urgency, a body of fish scientists to carry out in-depth investigations into the ‘SAIKO’ affair, and also to examine thoroughly and holistically Ghana’s fishing industry to find out and recommend what should be done to restore its viability and lost vibrancy,” he added.