Editorial: Sudden decline of small pelagic fish must engage our attention

The Director of Hen Mpoano, Mr. Kofi Agbogah, recently revealed that the country’s small pelagic fish, which is the mainstay of artisanal fishers and the coastal economy, has been in steep decline. Briefing journalists at a training workshop held in Cape Coast last week, Mr. Agbogah categorically explained that the small pelagic fishing industry has recently been on the brink of collapse.

For instance, the annual landings of the small pelagic species in 2019, comprising round sardinella, flat sardinella, anchovies and mackerel, have declined to the lowest in the time series between 1990 and 2019.

Instructively, the aforementioned four species account for more than 80% of Ghana’s total small pelagic fish population, therefore, it would be tragic to let small pelagic industry collapse.

He cited human activities such as overfishing, overcapacity, widespread illegal fishing and weak enforcement of the laws on fishing among others as the reasons for the steep decline.

As a result of these activities, the fishing sector in general, which creates employment opportunities for about 10% of the country’s population, has suddenly taken a nose dive in recent years.

Additionally, its contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has also declined, from 1.5% in 2015 to 0.9% in 2019, mainly due to over-exploitation and inefficient enforcement of laws.

However, the sector contributes immensely to the development of the national economy, as the World Bank has estimated in 2013 that the marine fisheries sector to generate approximately US$1 billion in total revenue each year.

Meanwhile, the small pelagic fishery provided food, nutrition, and protein that is high in quality but cheap and affordable.

The Chronicle holds the view that the current decline of the small pelagic fish must be a major concern to the Fisheries Commission, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and the country at large.

This is because the decline is gradually pointing to a looming danger which must be properly considered to urgently recover the small pelagic eco-system, because a total collapse would spell disaster for the nation.

As stated by Mr. Agbogah, such a disaster would have dire consequences on other sectors and the coastal and other communities that depend on it for their protein needs.

It is for these reasons that The Chronicle totally supports Mr. Agbogah’s call for concerted efforts by all major stakeholders and key industry players to save the fishery sector from the brink of total collapse.

The situation is becoming a major threat to the fisheries sector and, therefore, demands drastic measures, particularly from the government to deal with the canker and reverse the trend.

Experts have often blamed past and successful governments for playing politics with the fishery sector and also paying lip service, instead of being bold and firm to implement the laws governing the sector.

It is nauseating to note that though our neighbouring countries do not have unique climatic weather which favours their fishing sector, but they have been able to efficiently and effectively regulate their sectors.

When Ghanaian fishers travel to any of these countries, they strictly abide by the laws and policies operating there, but in Ghana the politicians are afraid to enforce the laws to protect our sector.

We, therefore, want to call on the government to as a matter of urgency, consider the implementation of all the laws and ACTS regarding the fishing sector to protect the small pelagic fishes.


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