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We must sustain fisheries sector

BY: Daily Graphic
File photo
File photo

It is important that we appreciate all fishers and all others in the fish value chain for their role in ensuring that fish is always part of our meals.

Fish does not only add to our diet; it is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin) and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium.

Official figures from the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development say that the fisheries sector has, over the years, supported the livelihood of more than three million Ghanaians along the fisheries and aquaculture value chain and generally contributed to the economic development of the country, while contributing 1.04 per cent to Ghana's GDP in 2021.

Every day, fishermen, at their peril, plunge into the deep sea and rivers, against high and low tide, just to provide fish for our daily consumption as they try to make ends meet.

If these facts do not indicate that we should hold the fisheries sector dear and make sure we sustain it for generations unborn, then we don’t know what else will.

It is one of several reasons the Daily Graphic lauds the government for creating an entire ministry for fisheries and aquaculture, and in addition instituting the Fish Festival, which was celebrated for the third time running in Accra on the theme: “Promoting Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for National Development”.

The exhibition of fish products and deliberations on promoting sustainable fisheries and the aquaculture sector, which formed part of the celebration and attracted stakeholders in the fisheries sector, such as fish farmers, processors and traders, dealers in fishing and fish farming materials, among others, were healthy fora to discuss the best way forward for the sector.

Meanwhile, the Daily Graphic thinks the sector, in spite of its significance, has not achieved its full potential, as poverty is still prevalent in many fishing communities in the country.

The fact that marine and inland fisheries resources are showing signs of full exploitation or over-exploitation, while aquaculture production is also constrained by factors such as limited access to good quality fingerlings, the high cost of fish feed, inadequate funding for research and disease outbreaks, should be cause for concern and prompt action.

Ghana currently imports fish to meet its domestic fish requirement, a practice which does not augur well for our fish industry.

If, indeed, the government is committed to the sustainable management of our fishery resources and the development of the aquaculture industry for the benefit of current and future generations, then its vision for the sector, which is to transform and grow aquaculture through increased domestic fish production, the reduction of fish imports and the creation of job opportunities along the value chain, must be realised by providing a conducive environment.

We must not let foreign trawlers have a field day depleting our fish stock, with Ghanaian fishers playing second fiddle, while all our local vessels remain unserviceable and fishermen with boats are left stranded because there is no premix fuel.

We must likewise deal decisively with challenges such as climate change, the pollution of water bodies with plastic waste and through illegal mining, as well as illegal fishing practices such as light fishing.

Artisanal fishing cannot be discounted, the reason this year has also been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture to enhance global awareness and support the contribution of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture to sustainable development.

We can get the most from our artisanal fishers, apart from enjoying our small pelagics, such as mackerel, horse mackerel, chub mackerel, sardines and anchovies, which are fish species we mostly land. These small pelagic species account for about 70 per cent of the total marine fish capture in Ghana, aside from the premium fish species, such as the sea bream, red snapper, croaker and cassava fish.

But we must be deliberate about putting the right infrastructure in place, so that we can afford to eat fish at least two times per week as part of a healthy diet, as recommended.