Tomorrow is Farmers Day, and as we celebrate our farmers across the country, one critical sector of concern is fishing. Ghana consumes a million tonnes of fish annually but can provide locally from its waters only between 400,000 and 420,000 tonnes. The deficit in fish supply has resulted in the importation of about 600,000 tonnes of fish or 60 per cent of fish requirements annually, amounting to some $150 million.
The figure, experts in the sector argue, could soar in the near future, as activities endangering the marine ecosystem keep increasing.Follow @Graphicgh
Ghana has a fish consumption rate of between 21 and 27 kilogrammes per capita, making the country the highest fish consumer in Africa.
However, although Ghana is the highest fish consumer on the continent, the fish production sector is bedevilled by challenges.
In early November, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs had a two-day fishing sector engagement with stakeholders in Koforidua.
The Secretary of the Ghana Tuna Association (GTA), Mr Richster Nii Armah Amarfio, told the meeting that the shortfall in local fish production was as a result of the depletion of Ghana’s fish stock over the years.
He again told the meeting that conflict in the marine ecosystem and inland fishing activities due to the search for other resources were major challenges, with the presence of oil rigs, which had become aggregating points for fishes, coupled with the inability of fishing vessels to fish around the rigs, contributing to the depletion of the marine fishing sector, while the loss of rivers, lakes and mangroves to illegal mining and other human activities had also impacted significantly on the inland fishing sector.
Being the highest consumer of fish, the country needs to be self-sufficient in the sector.
It will take particular focus to resolve some of the challenges relating to the depletion of fish stock in our marine space, such as illegal mining which is polluting our rivers.
Furthermore, it will take inter-sectoral collaboration with other ministries to tackle the challenges.
It in this vein that the Daily Graphic is pleased with the review of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy, the process of which began on November 17.
The review will provide direction for further development of fisheries and aquaculture in the country.
Proposals will be collected from stakeholders to revise the existing 2008 National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy.
According to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Ms Hawa Koomson, the revision of the 14-year-old policy had become necessary following significant changes in the fisheries sector at both the national and the international levels since the first National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy came into effect in 2008.
Additionally, over the years, the fisheries sector had been confronted with issues related to climate change, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, gear development, small-scale fisheries, gender and youth, co-management, high sea fisheries, as well as inadequate technology and infrastructure capacity, she added.
The participation of people, drawn from the Ghana Maritime Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), civil society organisations and the Water Research Institute (WRI), with academia represented by the University of Cape Coast (UCC), the University of Ghana and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), makes the Daily Graphic confident that whatever proposals are presented will make the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy richer and better.
We hope that the review process will be thorough and present workable solutions to challenges.
Ghana needs not reinvent the wheel in its quest to be fish self-sufficient. Research and studies have solutions to challenges in the sector in other countries.
Expertise also abounds. What is needed now is expert leadership, management and engagement to bring together all the ideas, action plans and views into workable solutions for the sector to thrive.