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Saiko is like ‘galamsey’, a load of hot air

BY: Enimil Ashon
File photo
File photo

Ghana is at war. It is a fratricidal war in which the combatants are 10,000 Ghanaians, called ‘galamseyers’, against the 30-plus million of us. They have always won because on their side are the very people we have elected to lead in the prosecution of the war. We cannot shoot to kill because our war commanders will never issue that command.

Meanwhile, Ghana Water Company spends millions of dollars to treat the highly polluted water bodies; precious dollars whose scarcity at Bank of Ghana is the reason our cedi has become the most worthless currency in the world. We used to laugh at the leader of Zimbabwe!

In this fight against galamsey, we have heard warnings that “the perpetrators will not be spared, irrespective of their status in society or political affiliation”.

Six years have passed.

Nobody believes government words anymore, not even Chinese citizens, including Aisha Huang. Yet, she and her kind are only a latter-day representation of the evil. As far back as August 2013, the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) had 30 Chinese in its custody “awaiting repatriation”.

Word is that many of them did not, and still do not, get repatriated. Don’t blame the immigration officers. They are small fry who “obey before complain” and they obey orders from above within the GIS who also obey orders from “above”, controlled by political party financiers whose source of wealth is galamsey.

They have large appetites for blood money because they must build mansions and keep their girlfriends in buildings whose rent is calculated in so many US dollars per square metre.

Pretence

Galamsey is not a fight. It is pretence, and it’s been going on for years.

For as many years, we have also failed to save our artisanal small-scale canoe fishermen against the greed and impunity of foreign operators of illegal fishing trade called Saiko.

In September 2019 when civil society organisations in the fisheries sector called a press conference, they lamented that, “The government said it will end Saiko over seven months ago, but the Saiko boats continue to stream into port – loaded down with fish that should have been caught by the small-scale canoe fishers.

In the Saiko fishing trade, industrial trawlers licensed to harvest demersal (bottom-dwelling) species such as octopus and sharks, deliberately target the smaller fish species – known as the “people’s fish” – which should be the preserve of artisanal smaller scale fishermen with canoes.

The Saiko landings are brought to land and sold at the ports of Elmina, Apam and Axim for onward sale on the local markets. It is called “Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing”. In 2017 alone, Saiko took around 100,000 tonnes of fish worth over US$50 million.

Worse for our future as a people is that with over 90 per cent of fish traded being juveniles, Saiko deprives the marine ecosystem of the opportunity to rebuild as fish do not reach maturity to reproduce.

Lecture

This is what Professor Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, the immediate past Deputy Director-General of CSIR, had in mind when at a lecture at the Academy of Arts and Sciences in October 2019, she warned of an ecological disaster waiting to happen. Her reference was to Saiko at Elmina.

As an expert who sits on the Board of the World Fish Centre, her warnings take on apocalyptic tones. The academy sent her presentation as a policy paper to Ghana’s Cabinet but it has been largely ignored.

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), an international NGO, has released figures that show that artisanal fishing is the source of income for over 2.7 million Ghanaian breadwinners of both genders, 140,000 fishermen, along with thousands of fishmongers – the majority of whom are women – traders, canoe carvers, input suppliers and fish carriers, as well as their dependents.

At a meeting with President Akufo-Addo, the Canoe Fishermen Council advised that “the collapse of the ‘people’s fish’ will further undermine your government’s vitally important Planting for Food and Jobs agenda”.

They reminded the President of his vow to “intensify the implementation of the Fisheries Act, 2002 (Act 625) to ensure that domestic, regional and international laws that prohibit IUU fishing are strictly enforced”.

It further recalled a promise by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to see that “all domestic and international fleet that are involved in Saiko fishing shall be banned from fishing in Ghanaian waters”.

Predictably, action was taken and the Saiko war chalked up some victory. This was in November 2018. Like the fight against galamsey which enjoyed a temporary success in 2017, however, the effort ended up in smoke.

Since then it has been all talk, a load of hot air.

The writer is Executive Director,Centre for Communication and Culture. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.